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by Tom Freeman
08 May 2019
Proposed deposit return rate for bottles and cans in Scotland set at 20p

Plastic bottles - Fotolia

Proposed deposit return rate for bottles and cans in Scotland set at 20p

A 20p returnable deposit will be added to the cost of most bottles and cans made of glass, steel, aluminium and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic in Scotland, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has announced.

The deposit will be returnable once the containers are returned to any retailer that stocks the product.

Scotland’s planned deposit return scheme, first announced in 2017, is designed to encourage recycling and cut down on plastic pollution.

Glass has now been included, despite some industry bodies campaigning for it to be excluded from the scheme.

An advisory group made up of industry figures have been helping the Scottish government finalise the plans, which will now begin a legislative process before they can become law.

Environmental groups have welcomed the move, but some groups said the proposals will unfairly impact on small businesses.

Cunningham said: “There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations.

“I am therefore delighted to confirm that I intend to implement a system covering PET – the most common form of plastic packaging – aluminium and steel cans, and glass, with a deposit refund set at 20p.

“Supported by international evidence our plans for Scotland’s deposit return scheme are gathering pace with widespread consensus demonstrating that a well-run, appropriately-targeted scheme could improve the environment, change attitudes to recycling and litter, and support a more circular economy.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said smaller shops will struggle to store large numbers of returned containers.

Colin Borland, the FSB’s director of devolved nations said: “A bottle deposit scheme is undoubtedly a popular idea. But it is understandable that those that run the very smallest shops have concerns about storage.

“That’s why we’ve been working with officials, underlining the importance of an opt-out for those without appropriate capacity. We’re unhappy that the Scottish Government hasn’t taken on board our concerns, despite a commitment to address the problems such a scheme poses for small retailers. Ministers need to explain to those that run the smallest shops how this scheme will work for them.”

Local authorities, which currently manage kerbside recycling, also warned of unintended consequences. Umbrella body COSLA’s environment spokesperson Steven Heddle said: “We welcome measures which move Scotland closer to a zero waste society and help eliminate plastic pollution, but we will need to look at the detail of the proposed deposit return scheme and its impact on local authorities and communities.

“Scotland has a very well established and sophisticated system of kerbside recycling, which local authorities have invested in for two decades. We hope that the deposit return scheme will complement kerbside recycling in all parts of Scotland, but the implications for individual local authorities of potentially losing valuable material to the new scheme are still not yet clear.

“We are also mindful of the potential societal impact of the 20p deposit and we want to make sure it does not put additional pressure on the least well off in society.”

The draft legislation is due to be published this year.

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