Charging shoppers a deposit for bottled and canned products could play an “integral part” in reducing litter in Scotland, conservation charity RSPB Scotland has said.
Ministers are considering the scheme for cans and plastic and glass bottles, which would be refunded when the empty containers are returned to the shop.
However, the government is under growing pressure to push ahead with the charges, with RSPB Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, environmental charity Fidra and waste and resource management company Changeworks Recycling all backing the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign.
The call came ahead of the end of the “buy-back” scheme for Irn-Bru on Hogmanay when soft drink manufacturer AG Barr stops giving a 30p refund for returning glass bottles.
Polling published by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS), which is leading the campaign, showed that almost eight out of ten people backed the move.
However, critics have said the plan would be complicated and discriminate against people on low incomes as well as those without cars.
Charities backing the deposit scheme said it was the “natural next step” to the carrier-bag charge of 5p by the Scottish Government and claimed it could deliver similar benefits.
Lloyd Austin, head of conservation policy at RSPB Scotland, said: “A deposit return system would be an integral part of helping to reduce litter in Scotland and would lessen our impact on our natural environment.
“Drinks containers not only blight our landscape but can be deadly to wildlife across Scotland and in the seas that surround us.”
Betsy Reed, campaign director for Have You Got The Bottle? added: “The Scottish Government has shown leadership through introducing the carrier-bag charge, which reduced plastic-bag usage by over 80 per cent in its first six months.
“A deposit return system is the natural next step and would lead to a jump in recycling and a noticeable reduction of litter.”
Environment secretary Richard Lochhead said: “We intend to explore the issues raised in the call for evidence on a deposit return scheme in Scotland and welcome this contribution to the debate.”