Aldi trials deposit return for drinks bottles in Scotland, ahead of national scheme

Image: Aldi UK

Under the trial, shoppers will be encouraged to return single-use glass and plastic bottles, as well as aluminium drinks cans, to the Aldi store in Bathgate. They will be able to deposit them into reverse vending machines in the store’s car park, recieving a voucher for 10p for each container deposited, up to a maximum of £5 per trip.

Once packaging is collected, it will be sent for recycling. Proponents of deposit return systems argue that, not only to they discourage consumers from placing recyclable packaging in with general waste, they can improve the quality of recycling streams.

Aldi will collect data on consumer behaviour during the trial, including the number of items deposited. This data will be used to inform a wider rollout ahead of the implementation of a Scotland-wide deposit return system in law from 1 July 2022.

Scotland’s national scheme was due to be in place already, but its implementation has been delayed due to Covid-19 and Brexit, to give businesses more time to prepare.

The scheme will take an “all-in” format, applying a deposit fee of 20p to all drinks placed on the market, irrespective of their size or packaging format. Customers can get their deposit back by returning the packaging for recycling.

The Scottish Government is overseeing the scheme. A scheme covering the rest of the UK is set to be introduced under the Resources and Waste Strategy from Westminster, but not until 2024. The Strategy – the first comprehensive update to UK policymaking in this area for more than a decade – has been plagued by Covid-19-related delays to consultations on key measures, including deposit return schemes and new extended producer responsibility requirements for the manufacturers of hard-to-recycle goods such as mattresses and clothing.

Business action

Pre-pandemic, a whole host of businesses were trialling or scaling up reverse vending options in the UK, including the Co-op, restaurant chain Leon and supermarkets Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Iceland. Many of these initiatives are now able to start once more.

As for Aldi UK, the supermarket has an ambition to ensure that all own-brand packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022; and to halve plastic packaging by weight by 2025. Nonetheless, Greenpeace this year claimed the supermarket was one of the UK’s 12 worst offenders for plastic litter production. 

Sarah George


Comments (1)

  1. Roger Munford says:

    Amazing that Aldi stepped forward. Many years ago when I was studying Germany waste policy, Aldi were very resistant to returnable containers beer bottles and the like and occasional visits to German Aldis gave the impression that hey hadn’t changed track.
    They conformed to packaging policy by only selling beer in aluminium cans and drinks in plastic that could be returned to store (as they were obliged to by law) and baling up the crushed containers. Presumably this saved on valuable store space as it takes much less than storing reuseable containers like bottles.
    However it looks like their 30 year experience of in store recycling shows that it is not too much of a burden to the business model and the roll out in Scotland is to be welcomed and very much to their credit.
    However reusable, standard containers will always be much much more energy and resources efficient. Low hanging fruit in the drive to net zero in my opinion.

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