Our effort to tackle climate change should be a great unifier. Instead, progressive climate policy is being stifled by constitutional conflicts and political differences.

Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme has been delayed until October 2025, announced by Minister Lorna Slater in Parliament earlier this week.

After a long and frustrating process, we’re in a disappointing situation, where conflicting business interests, implementation issues, constitutional questions and political differences have undermined a scheme that had the potential to deliver significant environmental and carbon benefits.

This needn’t have been the case. Deposit Return Schemes work well in more than 45 countries worldwide, providing substantial positive impacts on recycling levels. Meanwhile, Scotland’s recycling rates are lagging behind, with our overall recycling rate falling from 60.7% in 2018 to 56.3% in 2021.

Originally, Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme was designed by Scottish Government to be one of the most ambitious and best-performing in the world, aiming to collect 90% of specified cans and bottles for recycling. If successful, it was set to cut emissions by the equivalent of around 4 million tonnes of CO2 over 25 years. That’s approximately 16,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.

For Scotland to make significant inroads into our climate targets, policies like the Deposit Return Scheme must find a way to fruition.

Scotland’s Circular Economy Bill is set to return to the Scottish Parliament in the coming weeks. This Bill looks beyond recycling, aiming to transform our "take, make and dispose" economic model to one where materials are kept in use for as long as possible.

Scotland urgently needs a bold and ambitious circular economy.

By moving away from goods that are designed to be disposable, we can take less from the earth, protect our natural environment and reduce our carbon footprint.

The cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country, who are being forced to choose between necessities like food and electricity to survive. The circular economy offers cheaper alternatives to buying new, local employment opportunities and community support from local charities and social enterprises that practise circularity through reuse, repair and recycling.

Circular Communities Scotland has asked that the Circular Economy Bill increases options for reuse, including a national reuse target. Like the Deposit Return Scheme, this would help reduce our carbon footprint and contribute towards Scotland’s goal to be Net Zero by 2045.

It is imperative that we move beyond the current divided response to the climate emergency. Our policymakers need to work faster, more boldly and most importantly, together.

On behalf of Circular Communities Scotland, I’d like to call on all policymakers to support meaningful and impactful circular economy actions. Together, we can achieve the objectives set out in our climate targets, and transition away from our outdated, unsustainable linear economy.

I believe we all want a safe, sustainable future for our planet. We also want to reap the rewards of a fair, thoughtful economic system that benefits the many, not the few, in our lifetimes.

To live in this future, we must build it now.

Michael Cook is CEO  of Circular Communities Scotland