The Scottish government has outlined its ambitious plans to introduce a deposit return scheme on drinks bottles and cans to tackle the rise of packaging pollution.
Under the scheme, the first such scheme in the UK, consumers will be asked to pay a 20p deposit on glass, plastic and aluminium drinks packaging, refundable once the packaging has been returned.
The scheme, based on successful similar international schemes, has been announced following extensive consultation with the retail and hospitality industries.
Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: ‘There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations.
‘Our plans for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme are gathering pace with widespread consensus demonstrating that a well-run, appropriately-targeted scheme could improve the environment, change attitudes to recycling and litter, and support a more circular economy.’
The scheme will cover all types of drinks containers between 50ml and 3l in size and will operate in all shops selling drinks across Scotland.
However, it will not cover businesses which sell drinks to be opened and consumed on site, such as pubs and restaurants.
Consumers will be able to return bottles and cans either over the counter, or by using reverse vending machines (RVMs) which will be installed at participating locations.
The announcement was largely welcomed by environmental groups such as Greenpeace who said it would ‘drastically boost’ recycling collection rates.
However, the Federation of Small Businesses said it was concerned the scheme will hit independent businesses after the government ruled out an exemption for Scotland’s smallest shops.
Colin Borland, the FSB’s director of devolved nations, said: ‘We’re unhappy that the Scottish Government hasn’t taken on board our concerns, despite a commitment to address the problems such a scheme poses for small retailers.
‘Ministers need to explain to those that run the smallest shops how this scheme will work for them.’
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) welcomed the decision, calling it a ‘significant step’ by the Scottish government in tackling packaging pollution.
The CPRE has urged the UK government to build on Scotland’s plans and introduce its own ‘all-in’ system which includes drinks cartons and pouches.
Samantha Harding, litter programme director at CPRE, said: ‘On this side of the border, we will be urging environment secretary Michael Gove to build on Scotland’s ambition and go one better, by making sure every drinks carton is also included within England’s deposit system.’
The Scottish government confirmed that it intends to publish draft legislation for the scheme at some point later this year.
The UK government has just closed a public consultation on its own deposit return scheme and is set to report back on it over the coming weeks.