Scottish deposit return scheme hailed as ‘blueprint’ for rest of UK

Cans, plastic bottles and glass will be included in a deposit return scheme in Scotland as part of efforts to tackle climate change.

In an announcement at Holyrood on Wednesday, Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the scheme would place a return value on items of 20p and would be up and running by the end of the current Parliament in 2021.

It means Scotland will become the first part of the UK to introduce such a scheme, which aims to capture 90% of drinks containers for recycling within three years.

In her statement to MSPs, Ms Cunningham said the scheme will apply to PET plastic bottles – for example fizzy drinks and water bottles – glass bottles and steel/aluminium drinks cans.

She also detailed her decision not to include high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic – primarily used for packaging fresh milk – in the scheme, due to concerns over potential contamination of other materials and odour.

Ms Cunningham said HDPE could be added at a later stage if such concerns are addressed.

A “return to retail” service will be implemented as part of the scheme, with all businesses which sell drinks required to accept returns.

Smaller retailers, Ms Cunningham said, would be given flexibility in how they enable returns through different sizes of reverse vending machines or manual over-the-counter take-back arrangements.

At premises such as pubs and restaurants where drinks are sold for consumption on site, Ms Cunningham confirmed those premises would pay the deposit but would have the choice whether to pass it on to the consumer.

She told MSPs: “I acknowledge that our plans are ambitious. Whilst I make no apology for this, I also do not underestimate the scale of the task. I look forward to working with partners to plan next  steps.

“I remain very open to working with the other UK administrations which are currently consulting on DRS (deposit return schemes). However this must be on the basis that their ambition matches our own.

“Our climate change commitments mean it is simply not an option for us to wait in the hope that others will follow the example we are now setting.

“With that said, I’m optimistic that the bold approach we are taking here in Scotland will provide a blueprint for future action across the UK.”

Jill Farrell, chief operating officer at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “This will be a game-changer for recycling and the circular economy in Scotland.

Recycling
A 20p return value will be placed on bottles and cans (Philip Toscano/PA)

“By giving people an extra incentive to do something good for our environment, and having a consistent approach across Scotland, we are confident it will be easier for all of us to do the right thing.

“This will improve the volume and quality of recycling and help tackle litter in the process.”

Scottish Tory MSP Maurice Golden said: “A deposit return scheme can be a valuable tool in increasing recycling rates but is commonly used in advance of kerbside recycling infrastructure roll-out.

“Nevertheless, I recognise that the SNP Government has been working on this scheme for over a decade and so I expect the smoothest possible roll-out.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Liam McArthur said introducing the scheme is the right thing to do in order to end the country’s throwaway culture.

He said: “As we iron out the details it is essential that there are no unintended consequences.

“Island and rural areas must be properly accounted for, and we need to be certain that the inclusion of glass won’t cause manufacturers to turn to more harmful materials.

“The next step must be moving urgently to tackle the mountain of coffee cup waste through a latte levy, preventing millions of cups going straight to landfill.”

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