Scotland announces drinks container deposit scheme

Materials World magazine
14 May 2019

Scotland has announced a deposit return system for drinks containers in a bid to combat climate change. The announcement builds on the country’s plan to increase recycling to 70% by 2025.

Customers would pay a 20p deposit when they bought a single-use container made of aluminium, glass and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and would get the money back when they returned the empty bottle or can.

People would be able to return the containers in two ways – over the counter, or by using a reverse vending machine (RVM), which would scan containers as they are returned, and then refunded the deposit. The money could be collected at a till, with a token, a discount voucher or digitally. The returned containers are stored in the machine and are then collected for recycling.

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 have to return the containers they sell on-site. Community organisations could also get involved to act as collection points.

The scheme will be paid for through unredeemed deposits, revenue from the sale of materials and a producer fee. 

The Scottish government is expected to introduce legislation later this year. Once the regulations are passed by the Scottish parliament, there would be an implementation period of at least 12 months before the scheme is established.

Campaign to Protect Rural England Litter Programme Director Samantha Harding applauded the decision. She said the group would urge England’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove to include all drinks cartons within England’s deposit system.

‘Introducing a truly ‘all-in’ deposit system will not only boost recycle rates to close to 100%, but also make the producers of drinks packaging rightly liable for the cost of every piece of packaging they create. This will encourage them to use more recycled materials, which will reduce waste, slow down the depletion of natural resources and move us one step closer to the circular economy that our planet so desperately needs,’ she said.

Deposit schemes have been implemented elsewhere. The state of South Australia introduced container deposit legislation in 1977. There, AUD10p – about 5p – is paid for returning selected plastic, glass and cardboard drinks containers. The return rate for beverage containers in 2017-18 was 76.9%, with almost 603 million containers (42,913t) recovered by collection depots for recycling. About AUD$60 million was refunded to consumers during that period.

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