Pros and cons of deposit scheme verus recycling

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LESLEY Riddoch’s article (Scotsman 28 December) raises some interesting points regarding the reluctance of shop keepers to embrace a system for the recycling of bottles (whether plastic or glass) and cans.

As far back as the 1980s and 90s there was a reluctance of councils (mainly Labour controlled) to embrace recycling, as they would no longer be able to “control” systems – and, of course, it would allow the private sector to profit from the disposal of the rubbish. This was at a time when landfill sites were filling up. Fortunately, thanks to incentives, attitudes have change enormously over the past 15 years.

However, with regard to bottles and cans, the Scandinavians introduced a system well over 25 years ago, whereby disposal facilities were placed at supermarkets. These consisted of machines (not unlike vending machines but in reverse) at the entrance, into which each bottle and can was introduced into a chute, monitored and tallied. When complete, the shopper pressed a button and was issued with a voucher to be used against the purchase of goods.

A similar system now operates in Germany. On holiday this year, I witnessed an elderly gent approaching a couple of students, who were waiting for a bus. He opened a plastic bag and they dropped in the empty water bottles they were carrying. I quizzed them about this and they advised that all bottles and cans carry a deposit of between eight and 25 cents, which can be redeemed at collecting machines for vouchers to be used for shopping. Apparently, the unemployed and pensioners (some have to subsist on a very low state pension) can make between €5 and €10 a day. This could also account for the lack of beggars in the better-off districts of Berlin!

J Lindsay Walls

Buckstone Wood, Edinburgh

Lesley Riddoch says that research for the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland found that 79 per cent of Scots back a deposit and refund system for drink bottles and cans. (Scottish Perspective 28 December)

The answer depends on how the question was phrased since researchers and consultants are very good at interpreting the client’s requirements.

RSPB Scotland, and others, want manufacturers to charge shoppers a 30p deposit for bottles and cans to stop litter.

Those in favour say that the charging for carrier bags was a success but that was simple to operate by charging 5p at the till whereas a deposit scheme would be an expensive administrative nightmare, with the consumer paying.

Local authorities have invested heavily in bottle banks and household recycling bins which include cans.

Those who throw away cans and bottles will never be deterred by the 30p charge but increasing the littering fine to £500 would.

Would the Scottish Government have the bottle?

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow