Scotland's deposit-return scheme for cans and bottles is delayed yet again, this time by the minister for circular economy – Scotsman comment

Four years after Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland would become the first part of the UK to introduce a national deposit-return scheme for cans and bottles to promote recycling, it has been delayed yet again.

What’s more, this fresh hold-up was announced by the recently appointed minister for circular economy, Lorna Slater, who, before May’s election, had criticised the lack of progress.

Using words that the co-leader of the Scottish Greens might have chosen had she not been in government, Nina Schrank, a plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, criticised the “shambolic delay” as an embarrassment for a government “which loves to shout about its green credentials”.

Despite welcoming the delay, Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy at the Scottish Retail Consortium, also complained that the process had been “drawn out to a pretty farcical degree – and needs urgently resolved”.


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The development of a ‘circular' economy – one in which waste is, ideally, reduced to zero – is one of a number of synergies between growing the economy and tackling climate change.

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Flagship deposit return scheme delayed again, Scottish Green minister confirms

Waste is inefficient, pollutes the environment and its proper disposal creates an extra cost that tends to be borne by either the taxpayer or the company creating it.

So, while the creation of a deposit-return scheme for bottles and cans made of PET plastic, metal or glass may initially cause some practical problems, once these are overcome, it should be beneficial to business, society in general, and the natural world.


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Minister for circular economy Lorna Slater has announced a further delay of a deposit-return scheme for cans and bottles (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Many people have woken up to the problems being caused by plastic, which breaks down into tiny pieces capable of passing into the bloodstream of animals, including humans, or even inhaled. Single-use plastic – so ubiquitous it is hard to avoid even if you make a deliberate effort to do so – is a particular issue.

So ensuring plastic is recycled may well be a public health matter as much as an environmental or economic one.

During COP26, Slater announced with some fanfare that Scotland was going to “ban some of the most environmentally damaging single-use plastic items” from June next year.


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We can only hope that this pledge produces actual results, not just headlines, and that The Scotsman will not be inducing a sense of deja vu in our readers in an editorial in four years’ time.

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