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Driving forward with deposit return

With increasing public awareness of the issues around single-use and excessive packaging, and evidence of increasing commitment from business to tackle the issue, via a Plastics Pact we at Zero Waste Scotland are proud that Scotland is taking decisive action to turn the tide on such disposable items.

Iain Gulland | 27 Apr 18

Work is well underway on design options for Scotland’s deposit return scheme, which Zero Waste Scotland is developing on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Enthusiasm for increasing recycling, is strong, and it’s fantastic to see other nations now taking inspiration from Scotland’s leadership and considering how deposit return could work for them.

I’m referring to the UK Government’s recent decision to consult later this year on a deposit return scheme for England. But I also recently travelled to the US and Canada, where I saw these types of schemes in Oregon, California and British Columbia in action. Colleagues have also witnessed schemes in European countries.

The schemes all vary in the way they work, and many can boast return rates for containers of over 90% for some materials. Zero Waste Scotland’s research – and evidence from existing deposit return schemes elsewhere in Europe – suggests a Scottish scheme could achieve similar results and have a real impact on our throwaway culture.

We are committed to designing the best possible deposit return scheme for Scotland, and for that reason – through an extensive period of stakeholder engagement – we have ensured as many different sectors as possible have had their say.

My team is now coming to a crucial stage in that scheme’s development, collating views from more than 120 one-to-one interviews and strategic conversations. This work will culminate in a Deposit Return Summit for stakeholders next month, before our design options go out to public consultation later this year.

Deposit return represents an unrivalled opportunity to generate real change in people’s attitudes towards single-use items – with the potential to improve recycling rates and reduce litter by introducing a financial incentive to do the right thing.

We know this approach works – we saw it in the 12 months following the introduction of the single-use carrier bag charge in Scotland in October 2014, when the number of bags distributed dropped by 80%.

Scotland is leading the way as the first devolved nation to commit to a deposit return scheme, and we look forward to presenting the results of more than a year’s dedicated work gathering research, examining operating schemes, and gathering thoughts and challenges from stakeholders when the public consultation launches later this year.

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