Publication - Consultation paper

Deposit return scheme for Scotland: summary

Summary of the Deposit Return Scheme for Scotland consultation paper.

Deposit return scheme for Scotland: summary
Example 1 – Take back to designated drop-off points

Example 1 – Take back to designated drop-off points

Example 1 involves containers being taken back to a number of large, dedicated locations, rather than there being lots of smaller return points in shops and public places.

What this example looks like

This system would see deposit return points being placed in towns of a certain size where you can return some types of plastic bottles, aluminium cans, steel cans and glass bottles to get back the deposit you were charged for the container when you bought it. The type of plastic bottles would be ones made of a plastic called PET, which is the most common kind for fizzy drinks and bottled water.

The place where you return things would be similar to a recycling point, where the deposit machines are placed in a range of public locations such as recycling centres or public car parks.

Under this example, shops selling drinks in containers wouldn't have to take the containers back. There would simply be a few drop-off points in most towns where you could choose to return your drinks containers.

Who would run it

In this example, the drinks industry would need to work together to create a non-profit organisation that would run the deposit return system. This organisation would make sure the system runs properly, and some of the money made by the deposit system would pay for staff needed to run the system and the costs involved in running it.

The new organisation would need to run the network of designated drop-off points, collect in the money, ensure retailers are paid to cover the deposits being paid back to people and make sure all the items were collected for recycling.

The effectiveness of these types of systems elsewhere in the world

Systems like this in North America and Australia tend to see around 60% of drinks containers being recycled.

The benefits and drawbacks of the example

While this offers the lowest return rate of the four examples, it minimises impact on retailers and other businesses.

There are drawbacks to this approach. If the designated return points are not located in major shopping areas or are otherwise central, people could find themselves making a special trip to return their containers rather than doing it as part of their normal shopping pattern. This reduces the accessibility of the system, particularly for disabled or elderly people. If the return point is away from a town or city centre, it would also be inaccessible for people without cars and could also lead to increased emissions if people have to drive to it.

This is particularly true for rural areas, as people could find their nearest return point is in a town that is hard for them to get to, particularly if they are transporting a large number of returnable containers. Not being able to access a return point for long periods, if it is hard to reach, will also mean they will have to store a large number of containers at home.

This example has been modelled with a 20p deposit level which reflects the need for a higher deposit rate to compensate for the lower accessibility of the system. However, this may have an impact on the fairness of the system as lower income households may be less able to afford the upfront cost of paying the deposit on a number of containers especially if the return points made take back less accessible to them.

Limited access to the return points might also mean that if someone buys a drink from a retailer and consumes it 'on the go', the container would be more likely to be improperly disposed of – i.e. thrown in a bin or littered.

The estimated likely return rate for containers in this example is around 60%, which is only a marginal improvement on current assumed recycling for these materials. It is therefore questionable whether introducing a deposit return scheme on this basis would be justified.

Qualitative Scoring of Example 1: Take back to dedicated drop-off points

Net Present Value £494 million (25 years) Return to Depot (Standard) Plastic, glass and metal
Objective 20p
60% capture rate
Relevant Parameters Score (out of 10) % Weight Weighted Score
Ensure a fairness for all demographic groups e.g. considering the impacts of the deposit level on households on lower incomes 20p, minimal impacts identified 8 32 25.6
Maximise accessibility to all demographic groups e.g. ensure there is no need to access a private vehicle to redeem deposits 1,058 return points, all towns over 1,000 people, 8am-8pm, 3 depots per FTE* 4 38 15.2
Create employment opportunities for socially disadvantaged groups such as the long term unemployed or those with disabilities 526 jobs, 435 internal across all return points, industry owned 5 13 6.5
Create opportunities to raise funds for charitable causes, where use of the money can have wider societal benefits RVM allows donation 5 17 8.5
Total Score       56

* Full Time Equivalent

The weighted score for Example 1 was 56, which was the lowest of all the examples. A particular concern reflected in the scoring was that return to dedicated points would limit access to return points, which would have a significant impact on both system performance and fairness for people who would be a long way from dedicated return points. It was felt that, aside from this issue, the example system does offer a measure of fairness in how it would impact, for instance, on low income households as long as they have easy access to return points.

The Net Present Value of Example 1: Take Back to dedicated drop-off points

This example assumes that glass bottles, metal cans and PET plastic bottles are the materials in scope, with materials returned to dedicated drop-off points. Example 1 has a deposit level of 20p and 1,058 return locations established across the country, achieving a capture rate of 60%.

Example 1 has a total net benefit of £494 million over the 25-year NPV compared to not introducing a scheme.


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