Recycling refunds 'could cut litter'

Litter in a bin Mr Lochhead says he wants to make Scotland a land where littering is no longer acceptable

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Schemes which offer an incentive for recycling drinks containers could help tackle Scotland's litter problem, according to the environment secretary.

Richard Lochhead is to look at the feasibility of taking up a deposit refund scheme which operates in Sweden.

It works by adding a small deposit to the cost of a drink which is refunded when the container is returned.

The Swedish system covers both cans and bottles.

Mr Lochhead said it could help address the problem of plastic bottles and cans littering communities in Scotland.

The Scottish government estimates that, on average, four plastic bottles and three drinks cans can be found in every 100m of Scotland's motorways and trunk roads.

The Swedish scheme is said to achieve recycling rates of 85% and generates high value materials to feed Sweden's recycling industries.

'Recycle and Reward'

In Scotland, eight different Recycle and Reward schemes have been piloted since the start of this year.

The programme, managed by Zero Waste Scotland, will help assess whether such schemes - which offer incentives such as vouchers, donations to charities or money back - can increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of used drinks containers going to landfill in Scotland.

Soft drinks firm AG Barr, which makes Irn Bru, has offered deposit refunds on its glass bottles for some 140 years.

Commercial director Jonathan Kemp explained: "We deliver into the shops a returnable glass bottle. The bottle sells for about £1 and then when people bring it back to the shop, they get 30p back.

"We then go back to the shop, collect the bottle, bring it back to the factory, wash it out, recycle the label and the cap and then we use it again and it goes back to the shop."

Market changes

The Cumbernauld-based company sells about 12 million returnable glass bottles a year but Mr Kemp said several factors had affected that market over the years.

He explained: "Over time, the number of corner shops that sell these returnable glass bottles has declined, and the large supermarkets don't do the returnable glass bottles.

"More people are buying cans and plastic bottles and I think we are all very keen to see the recycling rates of the plastic bottles and cans increase."

Mr Lochhead said he wanted to make Scotland "a land where littering is no longer acceptable".

Deposit Refund Scheme

He continued: "The Deposit Refund Scheme in Sweden is a great example of how a country has promoted the benefits of recycling into everyday life whilst also having a positive impact on litter.

Start Quote

We want to encourage more Scots to recycle and, in turn, help deal with our litter problem”

End Quote Richard Lochhead Environment Secretary

"The scheme has also created new industries and investment in jobs and skills to process these valuable materials - something I want to see emulated for Scotland's economy."

He added: "We want to encourage more Scots to recycle and, in turn, help deal with our litter problem, so it is right that we reflect on how this model could work in Scotland."

Each year, about 22,000 tonnes of plastic drinks bottles alone go to landfill in Scotland.

If that amount was separated for recycling, it is estimated that it could be worth about £6m to the economy.

Keep Britain Tidy campaigns director Andy Walker welcomed the Scottish initiative.

He said: "It is good to see Scotland contemplating a bottle deposit scheme.

"Incentivising people to do the right thing is a good thing and evidence from other countries shows that such initiatives can reduce littering dramatically.

"Cleaning up littler costs local authorities £1bn in England.

"It would be good to see schemes like the one in Scotland investigated south of the border too."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Bribery is likely better than their present ridiculous system, i ended up having 10 bleedin wheelie bins in the garden of my last house and was apparently expected to setup an industrial sorting facility in my galley kitchen, and the sad truth was it was mostly meaningless, no matter what colour bin you use it mostly goes to waste anyway due to contamination or lazyness

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Deposit schemes are a simple way to reduce litter, at least on bottles and cans. I'd love to make a few quid whilst collecting your trash, its a hard job to motivate yourself to do it at the best of times, when faced with such antipathy, and occasional hostility. I'd ban all non bio degradable packaging for crisps, sweets, food wrappings etc too, its about time we put our quality of life first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Can't believe we pay our public servants to dream up blindingly obvious ideas that most would have implemented long ago. In the 1960's, everyone returned pop bottles and any left astray in ditch or hedgerow were soon retrieved as every kid was an ardent bottle hunter after their 6d refund!

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I don't think it will cut the amount of littering much but it will reduce the amount laying around as people who are prepared to put a little effort in will collect the rubbish and cash it in.
    Could even be a lifeline to some who are struggling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    All this will do is get vagrants to do the councils work for them. What we need is to educate people who seem to have completely lost touch with the planet we live on that it's our personal responsibility to look after it!
    When I lived in London I was appalled that people having barbecues in the local park would get up and leave all their rubbish behind.
    It is that attitude that needs to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    This is just one of so many simple ideas that could make society so much better. It's an absolute "no-brainer". Where is the downside? Nevermind Scotland, why not the whole UK? It just seems like politicians in this country of whatever stripe are together in one big conspiratorial club to prevent simple good ideas, so that the corporations can keep on churning out the crap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    It's all about education, we need to drum it into kids from the beginning.. I'd like to see this 'bribery' work, but I can't see it, the same lazy of body and mind people will not go to a return point for a couple of pounds.
    Education is the way ahead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    It shouldn't have to come to this. People should recycle because they care about the environment, not because they want to get some money back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    This is not new. You could always get 5p back on a bottle of irn bru when I was young. It was our monthly treat at work 20 years ago to save up the bottles and cash them in for chocolate and crisps. Don't remember if it only aplied to products from Barr's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    If you are stupid and lazy enough to throw rubbish from your car then a few pence back (and certainly not a charity donation) is unlikely to change that selfish mindset.

    That said, I remember as a kid collecting glass bottles for the 10p deposit so it may revive an entrepenurial spirit in waste collection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    My suspicion is that the scheme would mainly be used by the people who recycle responsibly at the moment. Fingers crossed that the vouchers would be an incentive for children to collect discarded empties for the deposits. I can remember taking bottles back to the local corner shop, Morleys, for my mother and spending the returned deposit on Penny Arrows and Blackjacks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    This system has been in use in Germany for years, operated by a private company. 25c for a single-use PET bottle or metal can, 15c for a multiple-use PET bottle, 8c for a glass beer bottle. I rarely see cans and bottles in the street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Anything which encourages recycling is good given diminishing resources, increasing demand, fixed planet size and the insanity of some of the things we do ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The place where kids gather in large numbers to learn, despite their hapless parent(s), is school. The one place where learning , discipline and respect for others and your community/environment should be drilled in from age 4. But...when I tried to go into my daughters primary to talk to them about why littering matters...the head said what they do outside the school gates is not his problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    When I was in Sweden they adopted a deposit return scheme but this was only applied to Swedish drinks cans and bottles such as Spendips problem was you could only redeem your deposit by taking the container back to the store from which you bought it. There was no deposit of containers for imported beers etc thus the sale of Swedish drinks diminished - assume the Swedes have altered this now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Great idea - lets hope the rest of the UK will adopt this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    22. tonep
    "But if we are too spineless to use the stick method , we might as well try the carrot instead."

    I don't think it's that we're too spineless, I think it's that we've made it illegal.

    Our successive nanny governments, combined with their European "betters" have taken away nature's way of dealing with errant children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    UK used to have deposits on bottles. I remember taking them back to shops for the money, either ours or ones that had been thrown away. I think businesses complained about it costing them storage and collection, so it was stopped. Time to bring it back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    The problem is too many people are a four letter word beginning with t. there is no other word to describe them; intelligence is totally unrelated to it. When you see them shouting in the street you think 'what a t*** ' These are the sorts of people that litter and I'm not sure what to do with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Pay people to keep their own environment clean?
    Is that not akin to rewarding them for doing their own dishes?

    Better to train them from early childhood, surely?


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