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 70.

    Hardly a new idea - it was the norm in this country until the 70s!

    Bottled drinks had a small extra charge - refunded when you returned the empties. It stopped when we abandoned high street shops for the supermarket.

    We also had milk delivered - the milkman would take the empties to recycle for you.

    Reward those that do rather than punish those that don't. Great idea - but it's not new!

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    60 Theoriginalchrz

    1. We have enough CCTV cameras on motorways and trunk roads to catch the people who throw things from cars. We just need to be better at enforcing the stick.

    2. This is a long-term game. Children grow up into adults, they learn bad habits when they are children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    More on-street bins & recycling areas would also be good. Berlin's streets are full of communal paper/plastic/metal bins and is the cleanest city I've ever seen.
    By contrast there's a retail park in Dundee without a single bin. What genius forgot to install them? You're not allowed food in any of the shops, so it either a half-mile walk or dropping your litter. Guess what most people choose?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    People litter because they are lazy and have no personal responsibility. Shame on people who litter

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Seems like a great idea - until a child is killed trying to retrieve a bottle from the verge of a busy road or motorway for the sake of a few pence!

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    @43. Roddy

    I disagree, being green for it's own sake is fine, but people SHOULD be compensated for recycling, you have resources that you've bought and own and someone else wants to use them for commercial purposes, they wouldn't get them for free anywhere else, so why should they get them free from private households of all places? I've as much right to earn profit from my property as they do

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    When I was a child, 70 years ago, all glass drink bottles carried a redeemable deposit. It didn't stop some people just throwing them away, though, which was heaven sent for us children who would collect and return them. The only pocket money we had. But the deposit/refund must be enough to make it worthwhile. And I can see nothing wrong with children or vagrants earning a little money this way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    In a enlightened society, school children would start their day clearing litter from adjacent streets. This would teach them at an early age that littering is anti social and is a problem for society as a whole, not just for the local council staff. Teachers unions will probably have many 'health and safety' reasons to stop this happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    The money saved competing with China, Brazil et al on the world markets for new raw materials could probably pay for this scheme.

    A sensible sounding idea that would be good to see trialled somewhere in order to find out either way whether or not it can work & save money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Good idea. Put some of the responsibility back on the people who sell (and profit from) the containers in the first place.
    This idea should be developed all round the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    #22 & #34 - the article states that this is targeting the motorway & trunk road problem. In my experience it is adults throwing from the vehicle not kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    In South Australia we have a 10 cent deposit on cans, bottles and some plastic drink containers. If someone throws one away it barely hits the ground before someone else grabs it for the cash. We are a much less littered state than elsewhere in Australia. Go for it, it works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    ....and who is going to pick up the cost those who are supposed collect the returns will incur? More stinking bins cluttering the country? Will shopkeepers be pleased.....think not! Rubbish!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Anything which encourages recycling is good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Do you mean go back to the way things were 30 years ago?
    Used to make a few pennies as a kid returning empty bottles to the shops for the deposit.
    Just shows how well our country has been run for the last three decades when we find ourselves right back where we started as the best way forward. All that's changed is the increase to MP pensions

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Scotland simply cant do this, we must surely be too wee too poor and too stupid to carry forward any proposals that will better our nation, such as this proposal,minimum pricing on alcohol, cigarette advertising restrictions and smoking bans. We simply don't have the brains or the money to be successful, Mr A Darling told us, so it must be true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    It'll work with low inflation but Scottish inflation will go through the roof if they are independent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    London's streets (and others) used to be spattered with dog turds. Signs went up threatening £1000 fines for pet owners whose dogs fouled the streets. Haven't seen a turd in London for years now.

    Why do we need carrots? We have enough CCTV cameras, just make it a £1000 fine for dropping litter (including from cars), and make sure that there are enough recycling bins to meet the demand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    If you go to a Lidl in Germany (other supermarkets are available!) they're all set up for you to easily return things that you've paid a deposit on. But the UK branches of the exact same company don't offer the facility Why? Is it down to UK legislation or do they think Brits wouldn't use it? If a local shop offered such a scheme I'd make a point of shopping there and I can't be the only one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Before we get too excited by this "green" initiative, has anyone looked into what happens to our bottle-banked glass?

    My understanding is that the majority ends up as crushed glass which is used as an additive to road mending materials.

    The reason? - its uneconomic for producers to collect and re-use glass bottles.

    Just saying...


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