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Everyone has a stake in making a success of deposit return

“You’ll be buying the drink but only borrowing the bottle”. That’s how the Environment Secretary summarised the shift in attitude that Scotland’s deposit return scheme represents at yesterday’s stakeholder event in Edinburgh.

Iain Gulland | 23 May 19

The Environment Secretary was keen to make clear that the line was borrowed – it came from a member of the audience who had used it just the night before at an event at the Scottish Parliament. Borrowed or not, it’s a great turn of phrase that demonstrates the shift in our relationship with resources as we move towards a more circular economy.

The Environment Secretary was speaking at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Government held an event to talk about deposit return. It was a fitting location - the Botanics isn’t just a beautiful setting. They also work on biodiversity and conservation, so it was a good place to be discussing a scheme that will contribute to Scotland's fightback against the climate emergency.

The broad range of attendees helped to put Scotland's deposit return scheme - and the wider circular economy we are helping to develop - in perspective. To see representatives of brewers and distillers, supermarkets and newsagents, airports and environmental charities all gathered in one room shows how many people have a stake in this.

Zero Waste Scotland has involved stakeholders throughout this process. But as my colleague Jill Farrell said, there’s a sense of excitement at being able to talk with them about the details of the scheme that we’ve been working on for so long.

The Environment Secretary also said that she was “under no illusions” that delivering a scheme that is as ambitious as what has been set out will require extensive planning and the contribution of industry. That’s why the Implementation Advisory Group has been set up. The expertise contained on that group is one of the reasons that we’re so confident that this will work – it includes representatives of sectors that are already involved in schemes across the world and their experience will be invaluable.

The event was also a reminder that deposit return is not the only change that’s coming. Deposit return on its own cannot achieved the wider recycling rates that Scotland is looking to achieve. So while deposit return might be hitting the headlines at the moment, we can’t forget kerbside recycling – well-functioning kerbside recycling will be essential to meeting our wider ambitions for Scotland’s recycling. There were also plenty of questions about the wider extended producer responsibility (EPR) reforms that are in the pipeline and the Scottish Government has been clear that EPR will need to work hand in glove with deposit return.

One of the issues that’s generated the most interest is the inclusion of glass. The Environment Secretary reiterated her clear reasons for included glass in the scheme, which will significantly increase recycling levels for glass, from more than 60% to 90%. Its inclusion also makes it easier for consumers as they’ll know that the vast majority of drinks containers are part of the scheme.

Stakeholder event

The entire event was filmed and we’ll be sharing the speeches soon, so even if you weren’t able to be there on the day, you’ll be able to view the presentations soon. The legislative process is due to start this summer and Zero Waste Scotland will continue to engage with stakeholders to make sure that the implementation is a smooth as possible and to help ensure that the scheme delivers on its huge potential. We recognise that there are challenges to implementing something on this scale. But we all have a powerful interest in making the scheme work so we can increase the quantity and quality of recycling in Scotland and reduce harmful emissions. We’re confident that we can work together to make it happen.

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