The decision to introduce a deposit return scheme in Scotland is a milestone in the country’s progress towards a more circular economy – with the potential to improve recycling rates and reduce litter. Scotland is the first country in the UK to do so. David Barnes, Programme Manager in Litter and Flytipping at Zero Waste Scotland, provides an overview of the scheme.
Several countries already have schemes in place. Evidence shows deposit return schemes overseas can reach over 90 per cent recycling for containers, and material collected through it is typically high quality and higher value. In Norway, around 90 per cent of all plastic bottles in their scheme are now recycled, compared with just half in Scotland.
Scotland’s recycling rate has made a steady, if slowing, increase over the past five years – by an average of 1 per cent a year to its current 45 per cent. Meanwhile Zero Waste Scotland’s recent report, The Composition of Household Waste at the Kerbside, revealed two thirds of materials that could have been recycled are still ending up in household bins destined for incineration or landfill.
We’re fully committed to helping councils drive up recycling rates and there’s lots that can still be done, including deposit return. The system that is eventually chosen should have a positive financial impact for councils.
We facilitate the Household Recycling Charter – a voluntary agreement and code of practice agreed by the Scottish Government and COSLA, to which almost all councils in Scotland have signed up. It aims to make recycling in Scotland less fragmented and easier for residents, and to improve quality upon collection.
Deposit return presents an opportunity to turn the tables on litter for good. Clearing up litter and flytipping costs around £1million a week of public money that councils could better spend on other priorities. What’s more, around half of littered items could have been easily recycled.
By introducing a financial incentive for people to do the right thing, deposit return has the potential to generate a reduction in the amount of litter blighting Scotland’s landscape.
Stakeholder consultations Zero Waste Scotland has had extensive consultations with councils, retailers, producers, and community groups, culminating in a summit last month which 160 stakeholders attended, bringing together some of the key sectors affected.
It received an overwhelmingly positive response and was a valuable forum for discussion. Zero Waste Scotland will continue to work closely with stakeholders and keep our partners up to date with scheme design developments.
Deposit return represents a transformative milestone in Scotland’s plans to progress a more circular economy – with potential to change attitudes and generate tangible benefits. It’s also a strong basis on which to accelerate change in the way products and materials are seen, encouraging a whole-life approach to design and consumption.
At the recent summit Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham referenced the Scottish Government’s continued desire for collaboration with Westminster and other devolved nations to achieve a scheme that works for everyone – as well as reinforcing the Government’s ambition to achieve a scheme that’s supportive of the nation’s circular economy vision, and to make it one of the best performing in the world.
• Your involvement: Zero Waste Scotland is actively looking for stakeholders to tell us what they need to explain and promote deposit return to their members, service users and staff – and what they can do to help spread the word across Scotland. We’re keen to have your involvement to help make deposit return a success for Scotland. If you would like to work with Zero Waste Scotland to host a public engagement event, or have an idea to contribute, please email email@example.com
• David Barnes will be speaking at the APSE Annual Seminar in Edinburgh on the 12 September. For more information on this event and how to book, click here.