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Scotland’s New Return Scheme

Plastic Bottles

Throughout the last few years, waste levels in Scotland have increased; more rubbish is being thrown on the floor, left in the countryside and has even been seen floating around in the sea. Not only does this increase the negative effects of climate change and greenhouse gases, but it is also very harmful for wildlife. As an example, sea creatures may mistake the toxic particles released from this waste for food and digest it within their stomachs with fatal consequences.

Other Damaging Impacts:

  • Over 130,000 cans and plastic bottles are thrown away each day in Scotland, the majority of which are littered.
  • Pollution levels in Scotland are rising.[1]
  • 15,000 tonnes of total waste is thrown away in the open areas and streets of Scotland each year.
  • 15,000 tonnes equates to 250,000,000 visible items, not including chewing gum or cigarette butts.[2]

The Return Scheme

With these negative environmental effects in mind, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, has announced the idea of a new return scheme for plastic bottles and cans. Customers will have to pay an additional fee when purchasing a bottle or can, however, they will receive it back when returning their used item back to the same shop. This scheme is believed to save local authorities around £3m – £6m in litter clearance alone.
The main objective of the return scheme initiative is to reduce litter, enhance Scotland’s recycling rates and tackle climate change.
Zero Waste Scotland, the company involved with this have been reviewing current schemes in Denmark, Norway and Sweden and have so far received over 60 responses, including from Coca Cola, during its call for evidence on the deposit return scheme design.[3]

Starting a Debate

A survey carried out in 2015 by Have You Got The Bottle identified that 78% of the Scottish public were in favour of the return scheme.[4] However, some major drink companies were against it. AG Barr, the maker of popular softdrinks such as Irn Bru calculated that this scheme will cost the consumer around £150m extra each year. As well as this AG Barr decided to stop it’s 30p deposit return scheme, which had been running for over 100 years.[3]

Will Scotland Go Ahead With It?

With these key points in mind, Zero Waste Scotland are going to have to gather more evidence to show why this scheme will be beneficial for both the environment and customer. For now, we will have to wait and see what Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government implement.


Sources: [1] scotsman.com[2] zerowastescotland.org.uk [3] thegaurdian.com [4] haveyougotthebottle.org.uk

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