The average person in the UK gets through 242 plastic bottles a year. Only about 57 per cent of the 30 billion plastic bottles used in the UK each year are recycled. The rest end up in landfill.

Take a look in your own recycling bin and no doubt you’ll see them there, gathering among the other plastic and cardboard waste, the plastic bottles destined for landfill, or even the glass bottles and cans. Think how different that bag would be if some of those bottles were part of a deposit return scheme. Think of them not being there and not having that sinking feeling as you haul it out to the bin.


That’s clearly a disgrace. But why mention it now?

Because yesterday it became clear that Scotland’s flagship deposit return scheme has been delayed but we don’t know how long by. Lorna Slater, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity said she could give no date for the rollout of the initiative, which was set to be put in place in 2022 but had been put back. In a year of such delay, in Scotland, over a billion bottles could end up in landfill.

Why the delay?

The minister partly blamed the pandemic and Brexit. “Unfortunately,” she said, “the very businesses most instrumental in making the DRS operate, the hospitality business, small convenience stores and small brewers, are still badly affected by the pandemic and the mismanagement of Brexit.” Also to blame was the “lack of clarity” from the UK Government on the VAT treatment of deposits. Delaying till 2023 would break an SNP manifesto commitment to a 2022 start date.

How is the scheme set to work?

The initiative will require shoppers to pay an extra 20p when buying drinks in cans and bottles, with the fee being refunded when they return the empty containers for recycling.

How does Scotland compare with the rest of the UK?

It’s pioneering. But many are worried that Scotland’s delay will slow the move across the whole UK. An alliance of charities Greenpeace, Surfers Against Sewage and the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland observed: “If the Scottish Government proves unable to stick to its own policy decisions, that would put at risk progress on this issue across the rest of the UK.

“The retailers and producers in Scotland are largely the same as those who operate across the rest of the UK, and if progress is delayed in Scotland that will only embolden efforts to try to stall deposit return indefinitely elsewhere.”

So, I guess I’ll just have to stick to refilling my bottle of tap water?

That’s what I’m always suggesting to my son, but he points out plain water is no fun. Or there’s always the rare refill shop.


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