More than 1.25 million households across Scotland do not have access to kerbside glass recycling, according to analysis by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland of the latest data from WRAP. Overall that means 46.9% of Scottish households do not have their glass collected, up from 43% in 2018, the last time this exercise was conducted.

Seven local authorities offer no kerbside glass recycling at all in their areas: Aberdeenshire, Dundee City, Fife, Highland, Perth and Kinross, Scottish Borders and West Lothian. The majority of households in Glasgow are also not offered glass collection. 

In these areas, households must take glass containers to collection points if they want to recycle them. Scotland’s deposit return scheme, due to be launched on August 16th 2023, will make glass recycling considerably easier for the public. Allowing glass bottles to be returned as part of people’s regular shopping trips will also improve recovery rates.  

Glass bottles are central to the forthcoming system, which will also include metal cans and some plastic bottles. Including glass will reduce waste and energy usage but should also help minimise the risk of wildfires and injury to animals and people. This summer’s heatwaves led to warnings about glass bottles in dry conditions potentially leading to wildfires, a threat which will be exacerbated as climate change intensifies. Littered glass can also threaten wildlife populations through the risk of injury. 

John Mayhew, Director of APRS, which is running the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign, said:

“Almost half of Scotland’s households cannot recycle glass at the kerbside, and where it is provided it is expensive for local authorities. Deposit return is a far more convenient approach, and the costs will be shifted from council taxpayers to the big drinks producers. When deposits are introduced in August next year, we expect to see litter levels drop almost immediately, and it will be a big step towards a circular economy. 

“Recycling rates will also rise, while the amounts of raw materials needed to make glass bottles will be sharply reduced. Keeping littered glass out of our countryside also protects wildlife and even reduces the risk of the sort of wildfires we saw this summer. It’s been a long haul but we are nearly there.”

Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Bruce Farquharson, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Wildfire Lead, said: 

“Carelessly discarded glass bottles have the potential to magnify the sun’s rays, generating enough heat to cause large, damaging wildfires which can devastate the environment. However, human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting.

“The public can help prevent outdoor fires by disposing of litter carefully, as well as cigarettes, while in rural areas. Barbecues or campfires left unattended also have the potential to cause a large-scale fire.

“Through partnership working we are striving to ensure that Scotland’s natural resources and rural communities are protected from the devastating impact of wildfires, as well as preventing them from happening in the first place.”

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

“This autumn, our volunteers have been out and about surveying beaches across Scotland – and now also inland, looking at the litter which all too finds its way to the sea. As usual, they’re finding glass bottles, whole or broken, in significant numbers, which pose a direct threat to wildlife and the public.

“Deposit return is sometimes seen as just reducing the amount of plastic in our seas, and it will indeed make a big improvement there. But cans and glass are vital too, and we pushed very hard for the Scottish system to include the full range of materials. Next year we will do the same research during the first month’s operation of the deposit system, and even then I’m confident we will start to see a change.”