Scotland’s DRS will mean cleaner streets and communities

Saturday March 25th 2023


Lorna Slater, Scottish Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lothian MSP and Scottish Greens co-leader writes her monthly column for Midlothian View.

It has been 20 years since I first arrived in Scotland. I was instantly struck by the beauty of our landscapes and the character of our towns and cities.

I quickly fell in love with this fantastic country, the community I found here, and the incredible natural environments that make Scotland so special.

Yet, even the most iconic parks and beaches are so often blighted by waste and rubbish. Broken glass and plastic bottles are all too common, even in our most wonderful beauty spots.

It’s one reason why Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme is so important to me, and why we are determined to deliver it.

This scheme will be good for Scotland, for the beauty of our communities, for our natural environments, and for our climate goals.

The Scheme, which will go live on August 16, is very simple. We will pay a 20p deposit when buying drinks in cans or bottles. We will then get the 20p back when we return them to one of the thousands of drop-off points that will be available.

That’s why, as we get closer to the launch date, I’ve been imagining the empty cans I see littered across our streets and parks are 20p pieces waiting to be picked up.

We know that deposit return systems are extremely effective at reducing waste and improving the quality of recycled materials. They have been tried many times already – with over 40 in operation today across Europe and beyond.

This is evidenced by successful schemes in place around the world which have boasted massive hikes in recycling rates, significant reductions in litter, and recycled materials that are actually safe for reuse.

They aren’t even new in Scotland, with many over a certain age remembering how they used to return empty Irn Bru bottles to reclaim some change.

The vast majority of the drinks you see in the fridges at supermarkets are already covered, with companies covering over 90% of the market having signed up to the Scheme.

Over the months ahead I will be working closely with those who are yet to join it, so that we can ensure the widest possible participation.

The system follows a ‘polluter pays’ framework, which rightly holds producers responsible for the costs of their operation – a huge shift away from a business model that sees 44,000 bottles being discarded every day in Scotland alone.

With only five months to go, it has been so encouraging to see so much infrastructure taking shape while our scheme is coming to life.

In the last few weeks I have been proud to announce DRS facilities in Motherwell and Aberdeen, which will count, sort and bale the billions of drinks containers collected through the scheme.

These two sites alone will create over 200 new and high quality jobs, with more to be announced in the weeks ahead.

Despite the encouraging signs, this is also a test of devolution, with the Secretary of State for Scotland having undermined the scheme through a series of media reports and statements.

The UK government has announced its own scheme which will be less ambitious and does not include glass.

We are currently working with them to ensure that we secure an exemption to the Internal Market Act and that our scheme is as robust as it can be.

We are in a climate emergency and the longer the wait for a Deposit Return Scheme, the longer that waste will fill our streets, natural spaces, and seas.

With less than five months until launch day, I am confident that our scheme will cut waste, boost recycling and play a key role in Scotland’s push for Net Zero.

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