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 250.

    What happened to the bottle/can banks, the places where people could take their empty bottles & cans and get a few pence or so for them. Are they still around, when they were, you would see people collecting them (yes, from bins as well unfortunately) and taking them to these collection points for money, bring these back & watch the cans/bottles disappear as people collect them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    The real trick is making recycling easy. If recycling means a lengthy car journey to a disposal site then, chances are, it's not going to happen. Supply plenty of bins which are well labelled as to which type of waste goes where, then maybe people will do it. Put a deposit on a bottle that people can reclaim, then, chances are, folk will turn up with their own bottles and any they've found.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    My local bowling club regularly puts out huge council supplied bags to recycle drinks cans. We usually have to phone to ask why the bags HAVE NOT been picked up and to add insult to injury we have to pay for the bags We're doing our best but.............................??

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Armed forces day in Stirling next year before the VOTE!

    Well done London we are now at war because you declared it EH!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    No new idea here, this is how it use to be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Forget space travel - science should develop materials that are faster at biodegrading! Unfortunately, people just won't take up recycling no matter how much money you throw at them! 'People' are lazy - this is too much effort for them!What happened to fining people for littering???

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Why not actually enforce the law as it is, and make those convicted pick up litter as Community Service?

    Too much like real work for the police?

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    This is obviously to offset the severe social education problem which currently exists in Scotland whereby people believe that it is completely normal to throw their drink and fast food containers out of the car window into the countryside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Go for it and give incentives. Also penalise Local Authorities for not taking away that which could be recycled. I regularly get recyclable material left in the box. Why? No other reason than Local Government incompetence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Actually, focusing recycling at locations where you buy stuff isn't a bad idea at all - which is one thing this will do to some extent. In rural areas too many people are unable to recycle things locally.

    But one better, dear Richard, would be to bring in a law to stop Retailers selling stuff in packaging that isn't recycled locally. We use loads of Tetrapaks and they all go to land fill!

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    That is what I grew up with in Germany and it works great. You can also get crates with 12 or 6 bottles and return the whole thing. A lot of shops now have self-serve return units.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    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."

    I am, and it would help to reduce overpopulation, too!

    I expect I'll get marked down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Return and refund is a good way to deal with the lazy who will never recycle.

    I'd like to see the scheme extended to the fast food wrappers and packaging that litter the streets near any outlet and the roads near and drive through "restaurant".

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    2 Hours ago

    What is the point of recycling now China dosn't buy it off our councils anymore due to the world slump it just ends up in landfill anyway."

    People regularly trot this out, but is it in gact true or is it another "urban myth"? If it is true, can someone point us to some evidence, please?

    I go to a lot of trouble recycling and if it is going to landfill I'll stop!

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Mr Lochhead should realise that Government's are meant to persecute people in the name of environmentalism; not reward them! He is running the risk of giving politicians some credibility and improving trust amongst the public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    We're saved!

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    As a nipper we used to collect bottles to get the deposits back at the shops, god knows we became a throw-a-way society in the interim.
    Not sure how well it will work, I often seen kids throwing loose change away when they come out of shops (idiots) I pick it up to put to local charity collections.
    They look at me like I'm nuts (perhaps mobile phones do rot their brains)

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    I'm a US reader. There was a 5c bottle deposit some 50 years ago in my state A lot of children earned pocket money collecting "abandoned bottles". The project would also help keep streets cleaner. It definitely encouraged recycling. Enact the law as a matter of "Elf & Safety". Look at it as a taxpayer's Claw Back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Recycling is a heap of crap....all we have managed to do is pick up bins less, and make people drive their cars back and forth to recycling centre, most likely causing more pollution than the original is this helping anything other than ridiculous targets.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Works very well in Norway. You put the bottles/cans into a machine in the supermarket and they issue a ticket that is redeemable against any shopping done. my young children always enjoy putting the items in.


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