East Lothian Council could lose out with deposit return scheme

Wednesday March 13th 2019

East Lothian Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A deposit return scheme for bottles and cans will “rip the heart out” of kerbside collections, councillors have been warned.

Tom Reid, East Lothian Council’s head of infrastructure, said the Scottish Government’s proposals could cost the local authority £250,000 in revenue it receives for recycling materials from recycling companies.

East Lothian recycles an impressive 54 per cent of its waste and produces a high quality material which companies are eager to take off their hands for a price.

Mr Reid, who was in charge of waste services for the local authority for 20 years, oversaw schemes which saw the introduction of food caddies and recycling boxes instead of bins to make the council’s recycling materials more appealing to recycling companies.

But he told a meeting of the council’s cabinet that the service’s hopes of reaching a 60 per cent recycling target had been dealt a blow by details of the proposed deposit return scheme.

Mr Reid said that his department now had more details of the scheme which would be “fully compliant” and see all retailers told to charge an additional fee for all plastic bottles and cans of drinks sold, which they would then have to return to the retailer once used.

This would include, he said, Tesco and Sainsbury’s and leave the council with only “low grade” materials left out for kerbside collections.

He said: “There will be a deficit of £250,000 in the case of East Lothian”.

The Scottish Government held a public consultation on a deposit return scheme last year and is currently working with Zero Waste Scotland to design it in detail.

A government spokesperson said: “We are determined to do all we can to prevent discarded drinks containers from ending up in our streets and seas.

“Deposit return schemes have been successfully adopted in countries across the world and are one of a number of measures we are taking to reduce unnecessary packaging and increase recycling rates.

“Earlier this month, we began a consultation on packaging to ensure businesses meet the full costs of managing their packaging, much of which is collected through kerbside schemes.”

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray said he would raise the concerns at Holyrood.

He said: “I will certainly highlight these concerns to Scottish Government Ministers and urge them to ensure that any national scheme is introduced in a way that complements existing kerbside collections.”

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