The report, published today (14 May), assesses the benefits of introducing a system where customers pay 10p or 20p deposit when they buy a drink in a can or bottle, and get the money back when they return the item to a collection point.

The findings are broadly positive, with Eunomia – the consultancy that carried out the study – claiming that such a system would save local authorities £13m in collection and disposal costs.

Eunomia also estimates that the improvement in litter disamenity – i.e. the social dissatisfaction caused by litter, could be worth as much as at £205m a year.

Circular thinking

Zero Waste Scotland chief executive Iain Gulland said: “Scotland has set ambitious targets for moving towards zero waste, and we know that many drinks cans and bottles are not currently being recycled and may end up as very visible litter.

“Deposit return systems have been used in many other parts of the world to prevent waste and increase recycling. So this new report, which assesses how such a scheme could work in Scotland, is an important contribution to the debate about how we achieve our zero waste goals and move towards a more circular economy.

He added that Zero Waste Scotland was launching a ‘call for evidence’ to help it understand the impacts of such a system and how it could work most effectively in Scotland.

‘Small but important’

Scotland’s Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “A scheme like the deposit return has the potential to be very beneficial for the environment – reducing litter and boosting the recycling of these materials and their value.

“As we have seen with carrier bag charging, attaching a value to something can be very effective in helping us make small but important changes.

“Countries such as Germany, Sweden and Norway already have such systems in place as do parts of Canada, Australia and the United States. I am keen to explore the opportunities for Scotland from deposit return and will be highlighting these studies with my counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to invite them to do likewise.”

Irish waste targets

In related UK waste news today, 10 local authorities in the southern region of Ireland have been set a number of new key targets in relation to waste-prevention activities.

These targets include a 1% reduction per annum in the quantity of household waste generated per capita over the six-year period of the plan; a recycling rate of 50% of managed municipal waste by 2020, and a reduction to 0% in the direct disposal of unprocessed residual municipal waste to landfill commencing in 2016.

And in England, the new Conservative Government is being urged to work closely with the waste-management sector to counteract an anticipated downturn in recycling rates. Figures released earlier this week revealed that English recycling rates increased from 43.9% to 45% in the 12 months to September 2014, but quarterly recycling rates rose by just 0.1% year-on-year.

Brad Allen

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