A plan to create the UK’s first deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, cans and glass in a bid to boost recycling rates, has been backed by green groups.
The Scottish Government unveiled a proposal that includes a 20p return value for drinks containers – with all retailers in the country required to comply and accept returns.
Environmentalists hailed it as a blueprint and urged ministers at Westminster to adopt similar measures south of the border to help tackle plastic waste and other forms of packaging pollution.
Samantha Harding, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “We wholeheartedly congratulate the Scottish Government … we will be urging environment secretary Michael Gove to build on Scotland’s ambition and go one better, by making sure every drinks carton is also included within England’s deposit system.”
Scotland’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the scheme would be up and running by the end of the current parliament in 2021 and aims to capture 90 per cent of drinks containers for recycling within three years.
Jenni Hume, from the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign, praised the plans and stressed the importance of persuading other parts of the UK to follow suit.
She said: “The deposit system set out today is a major step in the right direction, setting the pace for the rest of the UK, and it will have a substantial positive impact on litter and recycling.
“Now we know how the system will work initially, the key will be to persuade the rest of the UK to adopt the Scottish model. It is in the interests of the environment, the public and business for the other administrations to adopt an approach that is just as inclusive.”
Calum Duncan, head of Conservation Scotland also welcomed that the scheme will include glass, highlighting the high levels of glass found on Scottish beaches.
He said the country was "now ahead of the game and the rest of the UK must follow to ensure we have the best systems in place across these islands to increase recycling and help reduce the tide of glass and plastic bottles and cans blighting our shores.”
Dr Richard Dixon, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said the system would provide a huge boost for recycling of bottles and cans, reduce litter across Scotland, and save both materials and climate change emissions.
He added: “This scheme will set a good benchmark to influence the thinking for a similar scheme for England and the ideal is that the two schemes will eventually work in exactly the same way.”
In her statement to MSPs at Holyrood, Ms Cunningham said the scheme will apply to PET plastic bottles like those used for fizzy drinks and water, glass bottles and steel/aluminium drinks cans.
She said she had not included high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic – primarily used for packaging fresh milk – because of concerns about potential contamination of other materials and odour.
However, she added that she hoped these could be added at a later stage if such concerns are addressed.
Despite the positive response from environmental groups, concerns were raised in the business sector. Colin Borland, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the very smallest shops have concerns about storage.
“We’re unhappy that the Scottish Government hasn’t taken on board our concerns, despite a commitment to address the problems such a scheme poses for small retailers," he said.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, of the Scottish Retail Consortium, described the design of the scheme as “disappointing”.
He said: “A successful deposit return scheme … would herald an opportunity to drive further increases in recycling and reduce litter, over and above the existing household kerbside system. However, we are concerned the disappointing design unveiled by ministers may make that achievable.”
Mr MacDonald-Russell claimed the inclusion of glass would add an additional £50 million annual cost to the scheme, and he suggested that by not working collaboratively on a UK-wide scheme, the Scottish Government risks increased costs on retailers and consumers.
Additional reporting by PA
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