Deposit return scheme consultation: analysis of responses

Analysis of reponses to the deposit return scheme for Scotland consultation.

12 Creating additional benefits from the scheme (Q30 and Q31)

12.1 The consultation paper discussed the possibility that additional benefits could be derived from a DRS for Scotland. These could include (i) providing an option for to donate their deposits to charity rather than having them returned, and (ii) making use of variable producer fees or deposit rates to encourage manufacturers to design products which can be recycled more easily. The consultation contained two questions inviting views about whether such additional benefits should be pursued by the scheme. 

Question 30: Do you think a deposit return scheme for Scotland should pursue any additional benefits? [Yes / No / Don’t know]

Question 31: Are there additional benefits we have not covered that you think should be considered?

 Views on whether the DRS should pursue any additional benefits (Q30)

12.2 Table 12.1 shows that there were mixed views about whether a DRS should pursue additional benefits – 57% of respondents said ‘yes’ and the remaining 43% answered either ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’. The table also shows that organisations were more likely than individuals to answer ‘yes’ (63% vs 57% respectively). Public sector organisations, charities, environmental consultancies and DRS companies were unanimously in favour of a DRS in Scotland pursuing additional benefits, while recycling and waste management organisations were also strongly in favour (75% said ‘yes’). By contrast, food and drink producers and packaging manufacturers were much less likely than other organisations to answer ‘yes’ and more likely than other organisations to say ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’. 

Table 12.1: Q30 – Do you think a DRS for Scotland should pursue any additional benefits?

  Yes No Don't know Total
Respondent type n % n % n % n %
Public sector organisations 22 100%  – 0%  – 0% 22 100%
Food and drink producers 5 23% 9 41% 8 36% 22 100%
Charities 12 100%  – 0%  – 0% 12 100%
Retailers 6 40% 7 47% 2 13% 15 100%
Recycling / waste mgmt orgs 9 75% 1 8% 2 17% 12 100%
Packaging manufacturers 2 14% 9 64% 3 21% 14 100%
Community bodies 3 60% 2 40%  – 0% 5 100%
Environmental consultancies 6 100%  – 0%  – 0% 6 100%
Hospitality and restaurant trade  2 50% 2 50%  – 0% 4 100%
DRS companies 3 100%  – 0%  – 0% 3 100%
Other organisations 7 100%  – 0%  – 0% 7 100%
Total organisations 77 63% 30 25% 15 12% 122 100%
Total individuals 705 57% 176 14% 363 29% 1,244 100%
Total (organisations and individuals) 782 57% 206 15% 378 28% 1,366 100%

Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

12.3 This question was addressed by the postcard campaign which called for the scheme in Scotland to give consumers the choice to donate their deposits to charity, rather than having them returned. Thus, respondents were advised to tick ‘yes’ at Question 30.

Possible additional benefits which the scheme could pursue (Q31)

12.4 The comments indicated that a relatively large proportion of individual respondents and some organisational respondents may have been uncertain about the meaning of Question 30. Specifically, respondents’ comments at Question 31 commonly referred to the types of benefits / outcomes that a DRS should be expected to produce (i.e. a reduction in litter, increased awareness of recycling, greater involvement of communities / children in recycling, etc.), rather than any additional benefits they thought should be pursued as part of the scheme. Thus, the figures shown in the ‘yes’ column in Table 12.1 above are likely to be an overestimate.

Views in favour of pursuing additional benefits 

12.5 Among the respondents who answered ‘yes’ to Question 30 and who also discussed additional benefits which could be derived from the scheme, there was general endorsement of the types of benefits outlined in the consultation paper. (See paragraph 12.1 above.) Specifically, this group supported the suggestion that consumers should be given the choice to donate their deposits to charity or communities (and particularly to charities and / or community activities which involved recycling, litter picking, waste reduction, or conservation), rather than having the deposit returned.

12.6 There was also support for the idea that the scheme could be used to encourage, support and fund innovation in the development of packaging that (i) is able to be more easily recycled and / or (ii) is made from recycled material. However, some respondents pointed out that this should not be seen as an ‘additional’ benefit, but rather should be one of the central aims of the scheme. Some private sector respondents also suggested that it was unnecessary for the scheme to encourage better product design, since bottles, cans and PET plastic containers are already recyclable, and the industry was already committed to using more recycled (and recyclable) materials wherever possible.

12.7 Occasionally respondents made specific suggestions about how a donation scheme might work alongside the DRS – i.e. through the use of a mobile phone app, or (as discussed in the consultation paper) by having collection and deposit return points located in schools, charities or the premises of other good causes – and the deposits being redeemed by those organisations.

12.8 Less often, respondents offered suggestions about other types of benefits that could be pursued through the scheme. These included:

  • Benefits to local authorities: This would involve local authorities receiving a form of recycling tonnage ‘credit’ which would be based on the number of households in their area. This could potentially offset any loss of recycling tonnage from their kerbside collections resulting from the DRS.
  • Benefits to the Scottish economy: Suggestions included (i) locating any new infrastructure for the scheme in an area of deprivation to provide a new source of employment for local residents; (ii) developing a Scottish reprocessing industry so that materials would not have to be shipped overseas; (iii) developing local markets for reprocessed materials.
  • Business-related benefits: These could be obtained by integrating the DRS with retail loyalty schemes. 
  • Benefits to the consumer: Finally, there were suggestions that the scheme could operate in conjunction with a lottery – which would pay out a ‘reward’ to consumers (for example, upon return of every 100,000th PET plastic container, a prize of £100 could be claimed and paid out digitally, etc.). Respondents who suggested this thought this would increase the incentive to consumers to participate in the scheme.

Views opposed to, or unsure about, pursuing additional benefits

12.9 Respondents who answered ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’ to Question 30 generally gave similar reasons for doing so. These respondents repeatedly made several overlapping points:

  • The environmental benefits likely to be achieved by a DRS in Scotland were already substantial; it was unnecessary to burden the scheme with pursuing additional benefits.
  • Efforts (at least initially) should focus entirely on developing an efficient and financially sustainable scheme and maximising the recycling of materials included in it.
  • Attempts to achieve ‘additional benefits’ from the scheme would introduce complexity and cost and may undermine the success of the scheme.
  • Public support for and participation in the scheme may decline if the financial incentive (i.e. the return of the deposit) is diluted.

12.10 This group called for the DRS to ‘keep it simple’, ‘keep the money in the system to make it viable’, ‘get people recycling first’ and ‘get it right’ before attempting to do a multitude of other (unrelated) things. Some respondents thought that directing monies generated by the scheme towards a range of ‘additional benefits’ was contrary to the Scottish Government’s own ambition of moving towards a circular economy. There was also a view, expressed less often, that the linking of a DRS to a system of charitable donation was an ‘inappropriate’ use of funding – given that consumers will be ‘forced’ to pay a deposit when purchasing an item, and may feel pressured to give up their deposit when they cannot afford to do so.


Email: Tim Chant

Back to top