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.


“CalMac serves some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland, and as an organisation we are concerned about marine litter, given the impact it continues to have on our beaches and marine wildlife. Our passengers and the communities we serve care about protecting the local environment, and we support deposit return as one way to reduce littering and increase recycling rates.

We anticipate that deposits will reduce contamination of the items we collect for recycling on board and help us to achieve our recycling targets. When a deposit return system comes in, we are confident that facilities to recycle these empties either in or near our terminals will be well used, given the small financial incentive of the deposit. We would certainly wish to be involved in any early discussions to ensure that the system Ministers introduce works well for transport operators and our passengers alike.”

CalMac Ferries

Our Partners