The most recent figures showed Scottish household recycling rates had inched up by just 1% to 42% in 2013. The Scottish Government has set a target of 70%, and Ministers want to hit that target by 2025. Just doing a bit more of the same clearly won’t get us there.
It’s time to adopt good ideas that work elsewhere, like deposit return systems for drinks containers. In Germany, which has had a deposit return system for more than a decade, 98.5% of plastic bottles are recycled, and people have found it’s become second nature. There’s no reason that can’t happen in Scotland too.
Many people already recycle because they like to do the right thing, but others still don’t see the point. Paying a deposit means anyone who still litters is literally throwing their own money away, and the evidence from elsewhere in the world is that this changes behaviour.
Of course, drinks containers are just one part of the problem, but they are also probably the easiest part to get right. Changing the culture so cans and bottles aren’t just thrown away should also help support a mindset where the benefits of recycling other materials are also increasingly obvious.
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“People in deposit states just know this. They know that before there was a deposit there was more litter, and after the container deposit programme, the bottles and cans were gone from the sides of the roads.”