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20p drinks recycling scheme will cut 160,000 tonnes from Scotland’s carbon footprint

Scotland’s deposit return scheme will slash 160,000 tonnes from Scotland’s carbon footprint each year, a valuable contribution to the fight against the climate emergency.

5 Jun 19

The figure, which is the equivalent of taking 85,000 cars off the road, has been highlighted by Zero Waste Scotland to mark World Environment Day (Wednesday 5 June), the UN’s annual day to encourage awareness and action to protect our environment.

Under Scotland’s deposit return scheme, consumers will pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink in a single-use container. They get that back when they return the empty bottle or can to be recycled.

Similar schemes in places such as Germany, Denmark and Lithuania have already delivered recycling rates of 90% or more.

By capturing 90% of most types of single-use bottles and cans for recycling*, Scotland’s scheme will reduce emissions by four million tonnes over the first twenty-five years of the scheme.

That’s an average of around 160,000 tonnes of CO2eq each year, the equivalent of over 110,000 return flights from Edinburgh to New York.

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

“Single-use items like bottles and cans are a real menace to our environment and Scotland’s deposit return scheme will be a great way of reducing that damage.

“Scotland’s scheme will collect a staggering 1.5 billion bottles and cans for recycling each year. That will cut the number of containers going to landfill and curb the need for new material, helping to take a dent out of the harmful emissions that are causing the climate emergency.

“From Blue Planet to school children on strike, people in Scotland have been inspired to take action to protect their environment and this will make doing that easier than ever. You'll be able to return your empties to wherever you bought them from, making cutting your carbon footprint as easy as doing your weekly shop.”

Roseanna Cunningham, Environment Secretary, said:

“There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition in our efforts to safeguard our planet for future generations.

“For the price of 20p per item, our ambitious deposit return scheme will recycle 1.5 billion single use drink items each year, removing the equivalent of 85,000 cars from our roads. This will make a huge difference in our efforts to tackle waste, improve recycling rates, and remove litter from our streets.”

Key climate facts for Scotland’s deposit return scheme

  • Scotland’s scheme will reduce emissions by around 4 million tonnes of CO2eq over 25 years.
  • That’s an average of around 160,000 tonnes of CO2eq each year, the equivalent of:
    • taking more than 85 thousand cars off the road in the UK
    • more than 110,000 return flights from Edinburgh to New York
    • burning over 70,000 tonnes of coal


*About Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme

The following materials are covered by the scheme:

  • PET plastic bottles (like most fizzy drinks and water bottles)
  • Steel and aluminium cans
  • Glass bottles

All types of drinks in these containers and all containers above 50 ml (items such as whisky miniatures are 50ml) and up to 3 litres (such as a beer keg) in size are included.

Across Scotland, wherever people can buy a drink in a container made from one of these materials they will also be able to return it to reclaim the deposit. Online retailers will also be included in the scheme, ensuring it’s accessible to people that are dependent on online delivery.

For more information on Scotland’s deposit return scheme, including FAQs, visit: https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/deposit-return-scheme

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