Dundee University has become the first of Scotland’s universities to join “Have You Got The Bottle?,” a Scotland-wide campaign to introduce a deposit return system for single-use cans and bottles. Dundee University took part in a Zero Waste Scotland pilot project in 2013, and, due to its popularity with students and staff alike has kept its reverse vending machines in operation ever since (1).

There are over 200,000 students in Higher Education in Scotland, all of whom could be served by a nation-wide Scottish deposit return system like Dundee University’s (2).

Deposit return, a system used in thirty-seven countries and regions around the world from Michigan to Germany and South Australia, reduces litter, improves recycling rates, and supports jobs in the circular economy. “Have You Got The Bottle?” is led by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS), and includes 26 partner organisations representing more than 300,000 members across Scotland (3). Earlier this year local authorities in Aberdeenshire and Midlothian also voted unanimously in favour of deposit return (4) as consistent with their circular economy ambitions.

Well-designed deposit return systems typically see around 95% (5) of containers returned and deposit return is also supported by a substantial majority of people in Scotland. A Survation poll released year showed 78.8% support in Scotland for a deposit return system, with just 8.5% opposed (6). Under the 2009 Climate Change Act, Scottish Ministers were given the power to introduce the successful carrier bag charge (7), as well as to introduce deposit return. The Scottish Government has been investigating deposit return’s potential benefit to Scottish society, business and the environment, but has not yet decided to introduce one.

John Mayhew, Director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, said: “This was already one of the broadest coalitions Scotland has seen in recent years – local authorities, retailers and recyclers, surfers and triathletes, and many more. Now we can add one of Scotland’s major universities to that list. In this year’s Scottish elections, deposit return featured in the SNP, Green and Lib Dem manifestos, and it really now feels like a question of when it happens, not if it happens. We know there’s work to be done to make sure we get an efficient deposit return system for Scotland, but there is so much international expertise and evidence available for Ministers to draw upon now.

“Everyone agrees litter is a complex problem, and deposit return is only one part of the solution. There is evidence that reducing other litter – like cans and bottles – has a knock-on effect and makes people less likely to litter more difficult items like gum and cigarette ends. But we recognise that there will be more to do there once deposit return has been introduced, just as the carrier bag charge only directly solved one problem.”

Dundee University Sustainability Officer Trudy Cunningham said: “University of Dundee was part of Zero Waste Scotland’s ‘Reverse Vending trial’ in 2012-13, where we introduced reverse vending machines on our campus. A survey of our students during the trial showed that over 70% of those respondents who had used the machines were encouraged to recycle more.


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