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Drinks cash deposit scheme in Scotland – New report explores options

Zero Waste Scotland Calls for Evidence 

14 May 15

A new report investigating the options for a refundable cash deposit for recycling drinks bottles and cans in Scotland has been released today (Thursday 14th May) by Zero Waste Scotland.  

National deposit return systems already operate in many other countries, as a measure to improve recycling and cut litter. The systems see customers pay a small cash deposit when they buy a drink in a can or bottle, and get the money back when they return the item to a collection point. The items can then be recycled into new containers or other packaging.

Zero Waste Scotland’s research has assessed the benefits and challenges of a deposit return system in Scotland, gathering evidence from a range of key players including deposit return experts and operators in other countries; drinks companies and trade bodies; retailers and logistics companies.

The study explores the role that such a scheme could play in reducing litter, complementing local authority recycling services, and improving recyclate quality.  It also considers the potential costs of such a system. The study models what a Scottish system could look like, based on a comprehensive comparison of other systems operated across the globe.  The model included a deposit of between 10p and 20p per item, and covered all drinks and containers, including bottles, cans and cartons. 

Today’s report is being launched in tandem with a call for evidence to industry and other stakeholders on the role of a deposit return system.  


Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“Scotland has set ambitious targets for moving towards zero waste, and we know that many drinks cans and bottles are not currently being recycled and may end up as very visible litter. 

“Deposit return systems have been used in many other parts of the world to prevent waste and increase recycling.  So this new report, which assesses how such a scheme could work in Scotland, is an important contribution to the debate about how we achieve our zero waste goals and move towards a more circular economy.

“The research explores how a deposit return system could work in Scotland, and the issues to consider in designing and implementing a system.  That’s why we are also launching a call for evidence today to understand the impacts of such a system and how it could work most effectively.”

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“I welcome the work done by Zero Waste Scotland in putting together this study and report.  And I will be interested to see additional evidence from industry and stakeholders in due course.

“A scheme like the deposit return has the potential to be very beneficial for the environment – reducing litter and boosting the recycling of these materials and their value.  As we have seen with carrier bag charging, attaching a value to something can be very effective in helping us make small but important changes.

“Countries such as Germany, Sweden and Norway already have such systems in place as do parts of Canada, Australia and the United States.  I am keen to explore the opportunities for Scotland from deposit return and will be highlighting these studies with my counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to invite them to do likewise.”

For media enquiries contact:

Claire Munro, PR Manager
t: 01786 239791
m: 07702976594
e: claire.munro@zerowastescotland.org.uk


Notes For Editors

Editor’s Notes

  • The full report and Call for Evidence are available at https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/deposit-return-scheme
  • Zero Waste Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government to support the delivery of its Zero Waste Plan and other low carbon and resource efficiency policy priorities.
  • Zero Waste Scotland is helping Scotland to become more efficient in its use of resources. As a facilitator and enabler of change, we help to reduce waste, increase energy efficiency and promote responsible water use – all as part of a journey towards a low-carbon, sustainable economy.
  • Zero Waste Scotland has six key delivery priorities for 2014-15. These are: Supporting a circular economy; Harnessing the value of recycling; Transforming attitudes to food waste; Reducing the impacts of litter; Implementing resource efficiency savings; Accelerating the development of low carbon heat.
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