plastic bottle deposit scheme
September 11, 2017

Scotland commits to a plastic bottle deposit scheme

A plastic bottle deposit return scheme, partly funded by Sky’s Ocean Rescue Campaign, is to be introduced in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon recently told members of the Scottish Parliament “I can confirm today that we will design and introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, as an important part of our determination to tackle litter and clean up our streets.”

A staggering 35 million plastic bottles are sold in Britain every day, with more than half not collected for recycling, but left as litter or put into landfill. Deposit return schemes on plastic bottles operating on other countries like Germany and Norway have proven to give a much higher recycle rate at over 90% compared to a 57% recycle rate here in Britain.

In case you’re unclear, a deposit-return scheme (DRS) is where the consumer pays a small sum (around 10p or 20p) on the purchase of their bottle or can, which is then refunded when they return it. Germany has DRS machines in supermarkets and stores with an amazing 99% of plastic bottles being recycled.

The introduction of the 5p plastic bag charge led to an 85% drop in the number of plastic carrier bags in use for the first six months alone. The success of this could be down to peoples concern for the environment – it could also be as simple as a tug on the purse strings. Introducing a cash-back scheme for the return of plastic bottle could trigger more of us to get on board and recycle responsibly simply to get our money back!

Catherine Gemmell, of the Marine Conservation Society told Sky News that Scotland plans for a DRS scheme is an ‘absolutely fantastic idea.’ She went on to say, ‘Unfortunately, over the last few years, we have seen a big increase across our beaches on bottles, on cans and on glass as well. This is why we think a deposit return system will have a huge impact on decreasing the amount that we’re finding on our beaches.’

Do you think a cash-back scheme for the return of plastic bottles can work?

I’m sure there are readers of a certain age who can remember taking empty glass drink bottles back to the shop for cash you were then allowed to spend on sweets or comics. Great for kids and great for keeping the streets clean too! Of course this all died out when plastic drinks bottles began to line the supermarket shelves – but that has lead to increased litter, increased landfill and a massive increase in marine pollution. This is why Sky Ocean Rescue has been campaigning for DRS.

Deposits on plastic bottles, glass bottles and aluminium cans will give waste a value. It doesn’t have to be a ‘big bucks’ incentive to make a scheme like this work. In Norway a 500ml drinks bottle has a deposit of around 10p and 96% of bottles are returned.

As with pretty much everything there are oppositions. In this instance the cash-back scheme included opposition from the drinks giant Coca-Cola, with concerns over the impact DRS could have on stores with limited space, the impact on kerb-side collections and the cost to retailers. In a major U-turn earlier this year, after pressure from Greenpeace, Coca-Cola in Britain and Europe is now fully supportive of the DRS scheme.

“We believe a new approach is needed,” Coca-Cola said in a report to the environmental audit committee, before its inquiry into plastic bottles was dropped after the dissolution of parliament. From our experiences in other countries, we believe a well-designed, industry-run drinks container deposit return scheme (DRS) could help increase recycling and reduce littering.”