Deposit return scheme for Scotland: SEA

This strategic environmental assessment (SEA) post adoption statement details the environmental considerations that have gone into the design of the deposit return scheme for Scotland.

3. How the Environmental Report has been taken into account

3.1.1 A DRS should achieve a sustained behavioural change across Scottish society leading to an increase in recycling rates, a potential reduction in demand for virgin material, potential carbon savings and potential reduction in littering. In consequence, subject to exact design and successful uptake by consumers, it has potential to provide environmental benefits across: 

  • material assets (and in particular the increased recycling of plastics, glass, aluminium and steel);
  • climatic factors and carbon and total greenhouse gas emissions;
  • landscape; and
  • biodiversity.

3.1.2 The assessment of the four example schemes presented in the Environmental Report has identified opportunities to mitigate potential negative effects and enhance positive effects associated with their implementation.  Following assessment of the example schemes, it is recommended that any chosen DRS exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Materials: that the DRS accepts the widest practical range of materials to support Scottish Governments recycling targets whilst embedding a culture of recycling.
  • Return Points: that the DRS offers return to point of purchase points to maximise convenience to service users, maximise capture rates of materials and minimise the impacts of unnecessary travel.
  • Scheme Performance: that the service be a truly national service in order to both maximise performance outcomes and allow ease of participation in both urban and rural settings. 
  • Additional Benefits: that the DRS captured material is, where possible, reprocessed within Scotland and not exported abroad for reprocessing – with consequent increases in greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Consumer Information/ Fraud Prevention: that a Scottish consumer information scheme be implemented to help prevent non-target materials entering the DRS (contamination) and to prevent target materials originating outwith Scotland entering the DRS (fraud).
  • Infrastructure and Logistics: that existing infrastructure and services should be utilised where practical, to minimise the environmental impact of implementing a DRS.

3.1.3 The preferred option, chosen by the Scottish Government, will be a ‘return to retail’ model, focussed on the collection of PET bottles, steel and aluminium cans and glass bottles, with a deposit of 20p per container, and requiring cost recovery[17] from producers.  It seeks to maximise the collection of material, noting that cartons, cups and HDPE are not included within the preferred option.  Performance targets and the full cost recovery framework of the scheme will create permanent and consistent incentives to monitor and maximise performance and minimise instances of fraud.  Clear consumer information will give consumers a clear understanding of how the scheme operates, while the national, ‘return to retail’ model will maximise customer convenience and ensure both urban and rural communities throughout Scotland can participate

3.1.4 Proposed mitigation measures of relevance to all example schemes identified in the Environmental Report are summarised in Table 3.1

Table 3.1: Mitigation of environmental effects

Environmental Effect

Proposed mitigation effort

Effects upon landscape through any construction of DRS related infrastructure – counting centre, etc.

Existing infrastructure (such as suitable located buildings and/or Household Waste Recycling Centres) should be utilised to minimise the need for constructing new facilities.

If new facilities/infrastructure are required, in order to minimise the effects, the following should be key considerations: 

  • Location (with particular consideration to how rural and isolated communities will be served);
  • For facilities to be located in urban areas, seek to locate the facilities on sites with:
  • Compatible adjacent land uses; 
  • Previously developed land;
  • Good accessible locations, providing easy access throughout the day and at weekends;
  • No evidence of poor air quality;
  • Minimum, non-intrusive footprint of any external return points;
  • No environmental constraints (such as being an area of high flood risk, or designated assets or features (such as wildlife sites, cultural heritage sites, listed buildings or water bodies)).
  • Design of the infrastructure, seeking to maximise the use of recycled materials and the highest practicable environmental performance standards. 

Effects (including greenhouse gas emissions) from the potential for increased vehicle movements from consumers, retailers and reprocessors

Dedicated take back points and/or counting centres should be carefully located to minimise vehicle movements both within built up areas and to minimise carbon emissions in operating the DRS. Integration or co-operation between retail supply chains and resource management supply chains would seem beneficial. Take back points should seek to utilise retail distribution centres that are closely aligned with recycling transfer stations or logistics networks.

Organisations should look to optimise and utilise existing logistics services, and recycling and waste management options, in light of changes as a result of, or interactions with the DRS. For example, retailers should explore the opportunity to utilise back-hauling or reverse logistics when taking collected materials to bulking centres or counting centres. This will help minimise the greenhouse gas emissions from operating the scheme.  Local authorities might see specific opportunities to optimise recycling and waste management frequencies and routes, which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with these activities.  

Increased carbon emissions relative to BAU from exporting any materials abroad for reprocessing leading to a loss of valuable materials for Scotland’s reprocessors and manufacturers.

DRS will improve the value and utility of target materials collected compared to BAU however, further work should explore the existing capacity of reprocessors in Scotland to manage the materials targeted within this example scheme.

3.1.5 In refining and developing the preferred option, where relevant, the Scottish Government will take into account the above proposed mitigation measures.



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