Deposit Return Scheme will be a game changer for Scotland - Donald McCalman

Scotland is getting ready to transform the way we recycle.

Donald McCalman, Interim Director of Circularity Scotland.

We know from experience that small changes to our daily habits can have a huge benefit for the environment. A game changer in Scotland’s ambition to become a cleaner and greener country will be the introduction of the new Deposit Return Scheme.

In simple terms, the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) will mean that we’ll all pay a 20p deposit whenever we buy a single-use glass bottle, can or plastic container. The money is then reimbursed when the empty container is returned at any shop or hospitality premises across the country, helping to contribute to a circular economy.

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With a clear incentive for people to return used containers, research from Zero Waste Scotland predicts that the DRS will ensure 34,000 fewer plastic bottles, cans and glasses will be littered every day, while £62 million a year could be saved as it tackles the indirect impacts of littering.

The Scottish Government recently approved Circularity Scotland as the scheme administrator, which will coordinate the new system that is expected to collect at least 90 per cent of drinks containers across Scotland.

This appointment marks a landmark moment and another step towards delivering a world-class DRS that works for everyone. Circularity Scotland is a not-for-profit body that represents a combination of drinks producers, retailers, wholesalers and trade associations operating in Scotland.

Circularity Scotland will be responsible for making sure the DRS functions efficiently and meets its annual collection targets. We will organise the collection of empty bottles and cans from the thousands of reverse vending machines and manual return points located across Scotland, while also handling producer and return point fees and payment of deposits.

This is going to be transformative for Scotland’s circular economy. We’ve seen the benefits of similar schemes in other countries such as Norway and Germany that help to tackle climate change and prevent a throwaway culture. Since Norway introduced a deposit return scheme in 1999, it is now recovering 98 per cent of plastic bottles.

It’s estimated that four million tonnes of CO2eq emissions will be cut over 25 years thanks to the DRS in Scotland. This is equivalent to nearly 160,000 tonnes of CO2eq each year, which is roughly the same as taking 83,000 cars off the road.

As the DRS administrator, Circularity Scotland will work closely with companies throughout the supply chain. From producers, through to hospitality, wholesalers and retailers, we’ll work together to deliver a system that works efficiently and effectively.

We have a host of initial members from across the industry, including some of the biggest drinks producers and retailers in the country alongside trade associations (representing smaller companies) that will ensure our collaborative approach works for all.

Big changes are coming for Scotland’s environment thanks to this 20p charge on single-use containers. Every recycled can and bottle, and every person returning those cans and bottles, will have a part to play in helping us achieve a truly circular economy.

For anyone interested in learning more about DRS and the transformative impact it will have towards a cleaner, greener society check out:

Donald McCalman, Interim Director of Circularity Scotland


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