The Scottish Government is to further examine the case for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, despite criticism by packaging producers that the measure could be ‘costly and confusing’.
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has said that retailer costs and the implications for small shops need further consideration before a decision is reached on the issue.
This comes after the publication of a report by Zero Waste Scotland detailing responses to its consultation on return schemes last week (30 December).
The study was published on the feasibility of introducing such a scheme north of the border, modelling what a Scottish system could look like, and assessing other systems operated in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Australia.
A total of 63 stakeholders responded to the call for evidence, with responses varied on the overall impact of deposit return schemes on recycling rates.
For example, AG Barr, the brand behind Scotland’s famous Irn Bru soft drink, indicated that it has operated a deposit scheme for glass refillable bottles for 150 years, and since 1953 the return rate decreased from around 99% to 54%. The manufacturer ended the scheme in late 2015.
Drinks brands and packaging producers have previously spoken out in opposition to the measure, claiming that the environmental benefits of the system would be ‘marginal’ (see letsrecycle.com story).
But, modelling work by Valpak suggested that, based on an 80% total return rate for beverage containers, packaging recycling rates could increase from 57% to 59% if a return scheme is implemented.
Commenting on the report, Mr Lochhead said: “Like carrier bag charging, deposit return schemes attach a value to items that can otherwise be viewed as waste, and have proven successful in other countries at reducing litter and increasing recycling.
“The evidence gathered by Zero Waste Scotland highlights some of the potential benefits and concerns associated with a deposit return system for Scotland. I am listening closely as I consider whether such a scheme – which has worked successfully in other countries – would be right for Scotland.”
He added: “In the meantime, I have asked Zero Waste Scotland to undertake further work to look into the important issues raised by businesses, NGOs, and local government which include the implications for small stores, costs to retailers, and changes in customer behaviour where a deposit return scheme has been in place.”