Deposit scheme on drinks cans and plastic bottles wins backing of public

Scottish shoppers will soon have to pay a refundable deposit of around 20p for canned and bottled drinks after a majority of the public backed the move to encourage recycling and cut waste.

Scots could face paying a deposit on drinks cans.
Scots could face paying a deposit on drinks cans.

A Scottish Government consultation on the proposed deposit return scheme attracted more than 3,000 responses, with 56 per cent of those favouring a charge of between 15p and 20p.

The final scheme is likely to see customers paying a deposit on top of the price of a product, which is then refunded when the item is returned either at a local shop or a designated pick-up point.

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Similar systems are already common across Europe. Some countries achieve recycling rates of 95 per cent compared to just 50 per cent in Scotland.

Plans for similar schemes are also being developed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, raising the possibility of a single UK-wide system in the future.

Scottish ministers are working with the charity Zero Waste Scotland to finalise details of the plan, which is likely to be put to a vote in the Scottish Parliament later this year.

A year-long implementation period would then start to allow retailers and manufacturers to prepare for the change, meaning shoppers may not see any changes until the end of 2020.

An official analysis of the consultation said there was “widespread agreement” a well-run return scheme could help the environment and change attitudes to littering and recycling.

As well creating jobs, respondents said the scheme could boost retailers by increasing footfall as shoppers dropped off their empties, as well as for charities if there was an option for deposits to be donated rather than refunded.

Most people said they thought as many containers as possible should be eligible for the scheme, including plastic and glass bottles and metal cans.

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said the proposed scheme would allow shoppers to “emulate the success” of other countries by boosting recycling rates.

“People are keen to minimise their impact on the environment, especially after the widespread concern around plastics in our oceans,” he said.

“Scotland’s deposit return scheme will help keep plastics and other single-use containers out of our waters and off our streets.”

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This analysis confirms that Scotland wants to see a well-run, and appropriately targeted, deposit return scheme.”

The scheme would not include disposable coffee cups, although a separate tax of 25p on such items has been proposed.