Environmental organisations have reaffirmed their support for Scotland’s upcoming deposit return scheme, saying that it must begin on time and work for all producers in order to start cutting our emissions. Campaigners say that further delays to the scheme which were requested by industry members last week would result in increased litter across Scotland, a burden on local authorities, and higher carbon emissions from waste and the production of new materials. 

This comes as world leaders are gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for the 27th annual climate change Conference of the Parties. There were several events at the conference which linked circular economy policies, such as deposit return, to tackling climate change. 

Official estimates are that implementing a deposit return scheme in Scotland will reduce our carbon emissions by 160,000 tonnes each year, the equivalent to taking 85,000 cars off the road. The scheme has already been delayed twice, with the original start date being April 1st, 2021. These delays have resulted in over 250,000 tonnes of carbon being released to date. 

Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer for the Marine Conservation Society, said:

“A deposit return scheme can’t come soon enough for Scottish seas. At this year’s Great British Beach Clean, a shocking 93% of Scottish beaches cleared and surveyed were polluted with drinks-related litter. On average, over 30 bottles, cans, caps and lids were recorded per 100m of surveyed beach.

“By the time our volunteers are back out again for International Coastal Clean Up day next year the Scottish deposit system will be well underway. We expect to see a big decrease in the amount of bottles and cans reported in the years ahead. We know these types of policy work very effectively, and deposits will be a vital step on Scotland’s journey toward having a fairer and more circular economy for the benefit of both planet and people.”

Dave duFeu from Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign, adds:

“One of the many reasons for glass deposits is to reduce broken glass on roads and paths. It is not just a question of punctures – perhaps even more important is when cyclists swerve out suddenly to avoid broken glass, with the risk of being hit by any vehicles that are already passing too close. On paths, broken glass is a hazard for pedestrians and animals, is very unsightly, and of course is a puncture risk. At a time when the government has strong policies to cut car use, and boost walking and cycling, yet another delay to deposit return would be shameful.”

Kim Pratt, Circular Economy Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: 

“The environmental benefits of a Scottish deposit return scheme are clear for everyone to see, with millions of tonnes of climate-changing emissions saved over the coming decades, plus a huge reduction in littering and better recycling facilities for all.

“A strong scheme will incentivise industry to make more environmentally friendly products and force them to pay for clean up costs. But industry wants to kick the can down the road with calls for more delays on timescales they have already committed to. This would severely damage the creation of a circular economy in Scotland.” 

John Mayhew, Director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, added:

“As world leaders are discussing solutions to the climate crisis, we are emphasising the need for a successful, well run deposit return scheme in Scotland. This scheme must be made to work for small producers, communities, and the environment. 

“Scotland is pitching itself as a world leader at COP27, so needs to implement the most basic policy in moving towards a circular economy. We must live up to our promises and implement our deposit return scheme next August as planned”.