Scotland politics

Bottle deposit scheme study ordered by Scottish government

Bottle banks Image copyright PA
Image caption Campaigners believe a deposit-return scheme would boost recycling

A detailed study into how a deposit-return scheme for bottles and cans would work has been commissioned by the Scottish government.

The initiative would see customers pay a small surcharge which is refunded when the bottle is returned to a shop.

Design options and potential costs will be examined by Zero Waste Scotland, with the findings then being put to a public consultation.

International drinks giant Coca-Cola has already backed the idea.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said she had asked Zero Waste Scotland to start work on how a deposit return scheme would work in practice.

She said: "I am grateful to Zero Waste Scotland for its work so far on deposit return and to everyone who provided evidence to help us better understand the benefits of deposit return for recycling and reducing litter, and potential impacts on retailers and local authorities.

"Clearly there are a number of issues for the Scottish government to consider when it comes to deposit return schemes that can only be addressed by carrying out work to understand the design of a potential system."

Organisations like Coca-Cola have been coming under significant pressure to reduce the impact of plastic on the environment.

Greenpeace has just completed a study of Scotland's coastal habitats which found plastic in the nests and beaks of seabirds.

It said plastic bottles, bags and packaging were found on every one of the 30 remote beaches it surveyed.

Drinks companies, retailers and packaging firms will be invited to join a steering group along with environmental groups.

'Cheered from the rooftops'

The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland has been running the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign.

Campaign manager Jenni Hume said: "This decision by Roseanna Cunningham will break the log-jam on this issue, and today she will be cheered from the rooftops by a wide range of businesses and campaigners.

"Whether or not organisations are already persuaded that deposit return would work well for Scotland, as it does around the world, we can now look forward to a proper discussion about a Scotland-specific proposal.

"We will be making the case for a system that works well for the public, for local authorities, and for small Scottish businesses, including retailers and bars as well as producers."

Zero Waste Scotland's initial study into the potential benefits of a scheme estimated that local authorities could save between £3m and £6m on litter clearance alone.

'Unnecessary' proposals

A spokeswoman said the final decision on introducing a scheme would be for the government to make.

She said: "It's important that we understand the evidence around potential costs and benefits of a deposit return scheme, in a specific Scottish context, and that's why we're undertaking further work for the Scottish government to look at designing a potential Scottish system and testing that out."

However, Ewan MacDonald-Russell, the Scottish Retail Consortium's head of policy and external affairs, described the proposals as "unnecessary, anachronistic, and expensive".

"We know this scheme will be hugely expensive for retailers, costing tens of millions to install reverse vending machines, cannibalising profitable floor space for unprofitable waste machines, disrupting operations and hugely inconveniencing customers," he said.

"In fact, the costs are clear. What is still uncertain is whether such a scheme will significantly improve overall recycling rates."

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