How would a bottle deposit system work in Scotland?

More than 130,000 plastic bottles and drinks cans are binned every day in Scotland, with many ending up as litter. Picture: PA
More than 130,000 plastic bottles and drinks cans are binned every day in Scotland, with many ending up as litter. Picture: PA
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Scotland could learn from the example of other countries as it prepares to launch a bottle return system to encourage more people to recycle plastic packaging.

That’s the message from Lithuania, which established its own deposit programme more than two years ago and now collects 92 per cent of all associated packaging sold in the country.

The current rate stands at 50 per cent in Scotland, but rates in places such as Norway are as high as 95 per cent.

More than 130,000 cans and plastic bottles are binned in Scotland each day, many of which end up as litter.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed in September last year a deposit return scheme for such items would be introduced north of the Border to tackle the rising tide of waste ending up in the countryside and seas.

The design for Scotland’s new system has yet to be finalised, but will likely involve an extra cost being levied on the purchase price of a packaged drink, which is then refunded when the container is returned to a collection point ready for recycling.

Lithuania, which has a population of 2.9 million, launched its own deposit scheme in February 2016. It is administered by a non-profit organisation, Užstato sistemos administratorius (USAD).

“We learned a lot from other countries and applied their best practices, planning and preparing the infrastructure properly - collection points, counting centre and planning logistics,” said Gintaras Varnas head of USAD.

“We are strongly concerned about public awareness therefore we keep informing and educating consumers. In 2017, 92 per cent of all deposit packaging sold to the market was collected in Lithuania and by this rate Lithuania is ahead of such countries, as Sweden, Denmark or Estonia.”

Mr Varnas added that a recent survey found that 87 per cent of the population uses the deposit system in Lithuania, with 97 per cent believing such a scheme is necessary.

A further 93 per cent of those surveyed that it encouraged them to be more responsible regarding sorting of all waste in general.

Packaging in Lithuania is collected in so-called reverse vending machines, which are available in bigger supermarkets and at manual collection points. Glass, metal and PET packaging is collected in over 3 000 places. The deposit value for all packages is 10 cents.

Packaging of wine, spirits and dairy products is not included into the deposit system, but possibilities to collect this type of packaging are being considered.

“The deposit system is good because clean raw material of very high quality can be delivered to recyclers. Recyclers pay more for it.

“Thus, we collect 28 per cent of funds needed for system maintenance’, said Mr. Varnas.

He continued: “Lithuania is a small country, but we collect 21,000 tonnes of packaging per year, which then does not end up somewhere in dumpsites or our environment.

“Furthermore, these thousands of tons turned into new products such as tins or bottles.

“If such a mechanism could cover more countries or even the whole Europe or even, we could talk not only about a cleaner but also a safer future for ourselves and our children. The deposit system can create changes because millions of people join it every day.”

Zero Waste Scotland has been charged with designing the new system following Ms Sturgeon’s announcement.

Chief executive Iain Gulland said: “By attaching a value to things we think of as waste, a deposit return scheme follows on from the hugely successful carrier bag charge.”