Scottish Government unveiled the new deposit return scheme on 8 May. This is the first national scheme in the UK and will see consumers pay 20p on cans and bottles. It will cover single use bottles ranging from a 50ml spirit miniatures to three-litre bottles of soda or cider. Every can or bottle in a multipack of beer, water or cola will also attract the 20p charge.
Everyone is in on it
The scheme does not exempt small retailers and it will also include online retailers. Consumers get their deposit back when they return the empty bottle or can. Businesses that sell drinks to be opened and consumed on-site, such as pubs and restaurants, will not have to charge the deposit to the public and will only be required to return the containers they sell on their own premises.
Zero Waste Scotland are leading the roll out with support for organisations and consumers. With over 17,000 return points across the country, Zero Waste Scotland claim it will be just as easy to return a drink as it is to buy one.
Zero Waste Scotland has advised the Scottish Government on the design of the scheme, and they have produced a dedicated toolkit for stakeholders, as part of their new online content hub. Check it out here.
Small change, big benefits
There are a number of benefits to the scheme including environmental, economic, and community-based.
Tackling climate change – The scheme will cut emissions by the equivalent of around 4 million tonnes of CO2 over 25 years. That’s an average of around 160,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, the equivalent of taking 85,550 cars off the road in the UK.
More and better recycling – more bottles and cans will be recycled and will produce a better quality of recyclate. We currently recycle just half of all containers. Scotland's deposit return scheme aims to capture an estimated 90% of all containers included in the scheme for recycling within three years, potentially almost doubling the amount currently recycled.
Preventing litter – The scheme will tackle a visible source of litter that blights town and country, cutting it by a third. It will reduce the £46 million of public money spent cleaning up litter every year, and the wider negative impacts of litter (including on local businesses, house prices, community wellbeing and crime), representing at least a further £361 million in costs on our society and economy.
It’s circular – Scotland’s deposit return scheme will help tackle single-use, throwaway culture.
Reinforces Scotland’s leading position – as a frontrunner in the ‘circular economy’, where we make the best use of our resources and minimise waste.
Helps the economy – offers direct economic benefits through litter prevention and reducing carbon emissions as well as the potential for greater recycling and reprocessing opportunities here in Scotland.
Communities will benefit – Schools and other community organisations will be able to get involved by registering to act as return points. Plus all the benefits of less litter, and the collective benefits of tackling climate change.
It's industry-funded – the Scottish Government is placing the responsibility on the producers (owners of drinks brands) to deliver a highly beneficial and ambitious recycling initiative for the people of Scotland.