4th March 2016
A month ago, on 1st February, Lithuania became the latest country to adopt a deposit return system for single-use cans and bottles in order to reduce litter, cut local government costs, boost recycling, and tackle climate change. This approach is under consideration in Scotland, where the ‘Have You Got The Bottle?’ campaign is led by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) and backed by 18 partner organisations, representing around 200,000 members across Scotland (1).
It’s also overwhelmingly popular, with a poll released last year showing 78.8% support in Scotland for a deposit return system, with just 8.5% opposed (2). Research published by the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland concluded that a deposit return system would work in Scotland (3), and return rates with well-designed deposit return systems are typically around 95% (4). The powers for Scottish Ministers to introduce this approach were granted by Holyrood in 2009 as part of the Climate Change Act, alongside the powers for the successful carrier bag charge (5).
John Mayhew, Director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, said:
“Momentum is building internationally for deposit return, and it’s great to see Lithuania launching a deposit return system that’s designed to reach their target of 90% packaging recycling by 2025. Like Scotland, Lithuania is a small and ambitious European country and, like us, the Lithuanian government had had enough of litter, waste, and the missed opportunities for recycling and the circular economy. I’m sure their system will be a great success, as it is in countless other parts of the world.
“In Scotland, some cans and bottles end up in household recycling but far too many still end up in landfill or as litter in our cities and countryside. It costs local taxpayers and local authorities a fortune to deal with waste and litter, we will not meet our national recycling targets without a deposit return system, and Scottish workers will continue to miss out on the type of jobs such a system has created elsewhere. Scotland’s zero waste strategy should start with deposit return as an obvious, fundamental step, building on the success of the carrier bag charge.”
Betsy Reed, Campaign Director for ‘Have You Got The Bottle?’, said:
“Evidence from elsewhere shows that deposit return just works. People in Scotland have taken to improved kerbside systems over the past few years and the recycling rate has risen to around 41%. Deposit return would make it easy for them to return empty cans and bottles to be recycled when they’re on the go.
“Our campaign partners, some of whom are small shop owners and recycling businesses, are keen to see a deposit return system designed to work for everyone in Scotland. They know that it will bring people into their shops and improve the quality of the material being recycled. It’s good for business and it’s good for our environment.
“There are some in big business who don’t want it because it means challenging the status quo. But we know from international research and experience that it works. It would be a shame for Scottish businesses and local taxpayers alike to miss out simply because industry are resistant to change.”
Laurynas Vilimas Managing Director of the Lithuanian Retailers Association said:
“Simply throwing beverage containers on the street or in a bin is the cheapest and most convenient way to get rid of them. However, as an industry, we understand and accept our need to be socially responsible, investing in the environment and in society. That is why we had to admit that deposit return is the most efficient packaging recovery system, and why, together with producers we supported the Lithuanian Government’s efforts to introduce deposit return here. Now, following the first month of our system’s start, I can say with absolute confidence it was right thing to do. We are proud and happy that we succeeded in designing a system that is convenient and really works for consumers.”
Saulius Galadauskas, Head of Lithuanian Brewers Association and Chairman of the Lithuanian deposit return system added:
“We feel an obligation to take care of our country, society and nature. That is why we wanted to design a deposit return system that would work as well as possible for citizens, producers, importers and traders. Today, we can be proud of our deposit return system, which brings us closer to the Lithuania we want to see – a cleaner, more beautiful and more modern country.
“A deposit return system in Scotland would benefit its people, its beautiful countryside and its producers and manufacturers. Any successful, modern business should be eager to get involved, as it will benefit them.”
1. The campaign, launched in September 2015, calls on the Scottish Government to bring in a deposit return system under the powers already passed as part of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. More information is available here:
For more information about APRS, see:
The founding partners of ‘Have You Got The Bottle?’ who are working alongside APRS are Friends of the Earth Scotland, the Marine Conservation Society, the Community Resources Network Scotland, Spokes, Surfers Against Sewage and WWF Scotland. Along with those who have joined recently – including Changeworks Recycling, Fidra, Ramblers Scotland, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust – the coalition’s combined membership represent nearly 150,000 people in Scotland, with wider work reaching hundreds of thousands more in all 32 local authority areas.
2. Survation polled 1,011 Scottish adults aged 16 and over, 12-17 February 2015, on behalf of APRS.
Data were weighted by age, sex, region, 2011 Holyrood vote and 2014 referendum vote. Survation is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. The question asked was: Elsewhere, including in Denmark, Canada and Germany, a small deposit is paid to retailers when you buy drinks cans and bottles and fully refunded by retailers when you return the container, in order to increase recycling and reduce litter. To what extent would you support or oppose the introduction of a similar type of system in Scotland? (results exclude 4.9% who did not give an answer)
Strongly support: 41.1%
Somewhat support: 37.7%
TOTAL SUPPORT: 78.8%
Neither support nor oppose: 12.7%
Somewhat oppose: 5.2%
Strongly oppose: 3.3%
TOTAL OPPOSE: 8.5%
3. The Zero Waste Scotland and Scottish Government deposit return feasibility study is here:
4. Michigan figures:
Norway figures on p54 of this report:
5. For information on the success of the carrier bag charge: