Introducing a deposit return system on drinks bottles, cans and other packaging could lead to environmental benefits worth £205m per year.
That’s the conclusion of research conducted for Zero Waste Scotland into the introduction of a National Deposit Return Scheme.
It suggests, that after the initial set-up costs of the scheme have been paid for, that the savings to local authorities, – which, for example, would not have to spend so much time clearing up litter, if people were given a financial incentive to recycle it – would more than cover the costs of running it.
For Leithers, any move which would encourage a reduction in street litter, may well be welcomed.
The research looked at a scheme that would see people pay a small cash deposit when they buy a drink in a can or bottle, and get the money back when they return the item to a collection point. The packaging can then be recycled into new containers or other packaging.
Following the publication of the Zero Waste Scotland report, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland released poll results that showed 79% of Scots would back the introduction of national scheme, and argued that a national deposit scheme would build on the success of the plastic bag tax.
John Mayhew, Director of The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, said: “We know it works in other countries, tackling litter, reducing waste, boosting recycling, and supporting good new jobs in the circular economy.
“We also know that the current approach means cans and bottles end up as landfill and litter, wasting resources, spoiling our environment on land and at sea, and forcing up costs to councils across Scotland.
“As with the plastic bag charge, some in big business will complain about it in advance, even though it’s roughly cost neutral, and as with the plastic bag charge, the evidence from elsewhere is that a deposit refund system will just work for Scotland.”
Of course, litter is not just a rural problem. The City of Edinburgh Council spends millions on tackling litter, not to mention the thousands of volunteer hours that locals put into clearing up local parks and green spaces.
Zero Waste Scotland is now calling for evidence from other groups, on the impact that the policy may have. This includes a call for any “evidence on the anticipated impacts of a deposit return system on your own organisation, or on the public more widely? (e.g. costs to businesses; costs to the public; public acceptability).”
Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Scotland has set ambitious targets for moving towards zero waste, and we know that many drinks cans and bottles are not currently being recycled and may end up as very visible litter.
“Deposit return systems have been used in many other parts of the world to prevent waste and increase recycling. So this new report, which assesses how such a scheme could work in Scotland, is an important contribution to the debate about how we achieve our zero waste goals and move towards a more circular economy.
“The research explores how a deposit return system could work in Scotland, and the issues to consider in designing and implementing a system. That’s why we are also launching a call for evidence today to understand the impacts of such a system and how it could work most effectively.”
You can find out more about the research, and how to submit evidence on the Zero Waste Scotland website. The deadline for submitting evidence is June 18.