A deposit return scheme for Scotland: consultation

Consultation on the options for distinct elements of a deposit return scheme on beverage containers, seeking views on which options will deliver the best results for Scotland.

Ministerial Foreword

Roseanna Cunningham MSP

In A Nation with Ambition, our Programme for Government 2017/18, we committed to developing a deposit return scheme designed to increase recycling rates and reduce littering. This represents a step change in our ambition for recycling and litter prevention, and I am proud of the fact that Scotland was the first country in the UK to commit to this action.

I believe the case has been made for deposit return as an effective way to improve our recycling rates and, at the same time, to help prevent bottles and cans ending up as litter. This conclusion is based on the extensive work undertaken on our behalf by Zero Waste Scotland. This work has carefully considered the opportunities that deposit return could create and any potential problems, and demonstrated that deposit return will support our ambition to create a society that values the resources it uses and wastes as little as possible. This paper therefore, presents an opportunity to comment on and help shape the system that we will introduce rather than seeking views on whether a deposit return scheme should be introduced.

Our position is, of course, backed up by the fact that many other countries in the world – ranging from Palau in the South Pacific to many of our European neighbours – already operate deposit return schemes. Some of these are well established and have helped countries like Sweden, Norway and Germany achieve high recycling rates and clean environments. Other countries, like Estonia and Lithuania, have recently introduced schemes, and Malta has become the latest European country to announce it will follow suit. In May 2018, the European Commission introduced wide ranging proposals on tackling commonly littered plastic that include a requirement for member states to collect at least 90% of all single use plastic bottles by 2025. This proposal references deposit return as a measure that could be taken to achieve this.

In March 2018, the UK Government announced that it will also introduce a deposit return scheme for England. We welcome the fact that England is following our lead in this. We recognise that there could be benefits from co-operation across the nations of the UK on the design of deposit return schemes. I have therefore written to my counterparts in the other administrations to initiate a dialogue to ensure that we approach this in a way that benefits communities everywhere in the UK. The responses to this paper will allow us to take part in these discussions with a more complete understanding of what we want for a deposit return scheme in Scotland.

I look forward to hearing your views.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP


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