Scotland

Recycling refunds 'could cut litter'

  • 25 August 2013
  • From the section Scotland
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Litter in a bin
Image caption Mr Lochhead says he wants to make Scotland a land where littering is no longer acceptable

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.

"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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