Scottish deposit return scheme ‘utterly unambitious’, campaigners claim

The targets set for Scotland’s deposit return scheme have been branded “utterly unambitious” by the environmental campaigners who pushed for recycling initiative to be introduced.

A young girl returns glass bottles to her local shop and gets cash in return

The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) said ministers should be aiming for three quarters of drinks containers to be returned in the first year - instead of the 70 per cent proposed.

APRS, the organisation behind the Have You Got The Bottle campaign, then wants targets set for 85 per cent of cans and bottles being returned in the second year of operation, rising to 95 per cent in the third year.

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Director John Mayhew insisted the scheme must not be “a pass for big drinks producers to move slowly” to tackle the issue.

He said Scotland was “inching towards” the introduction of a deposit return scheme, with the initiative expected to be in place from April 2021

Ministers are proposing that from then a 20p deposit will be levied on the majority of drinks containers sold in stores, including the PET plastic bottles used for fizzy drinks and water bottles, glass bottles and steel/aluminium drinks cans.

Shoppers would then be able to claim their deposit back, when they return the containers for recycling.

MSPs on Holyrood’s Environment Committee have been scrutinising the plans, with the report supporting APRS’s call for the targets to be in place from the outset, instead of waiting nine months for these to come into effect.

Mr Mayhew said: “MSPs have backed our call that targets should be established from the outset.

“Launching without any pressure on producers risks a system starting in an inefficient way, with business not motivated to make it easy for the public to recycle.

“Those bad habits could drag Scotland’s deposit system down over the longer term, beyond that inexplicable nine month exemption.”

He continued: “The other half of the problem is the level of the targets proposed, even leaving aside that proposed delay. We have been told Scotland will have a world-leading deposit system, but a 70 per cent target for the first year would be utterly unambitious, even if it started from day one.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We want the scheme to be as comprehensive and accessible as possible, enabling people to do the right thing by recycling their metal cans, glass and plastic bottles.”