2007 - 2022

20p for a Clean Planet – Scotland Leads the way with the Circular Economy

The environmental movement is racking up victories as consciousness breaks through and policy catches up. Environmental campaigners today welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of the scope of Scotland’s deposit return system, which will be the first country in the UK to introduce such a scheme. Ministers have confirmed that glass, cans and some plastic containers will be covered. The deposit will be set at 20p for all containers, and retailers of all sizes will be paid by the system to accept returns. This may be the start of the circular economy beginning to capture the public imagination.

The announcement marks a major victory for Have You Got The Bottle? campaign, which launched in 2015 to press for deposits on drinks containers in Scotland, has long argued for a system which includes as many materials as possible. Not only do such systems reduce litter and boost recycling, but they also reduce the risk that producers will switch to less sustainable materials in order to avoid having to take part in the system. Research commissioned by the campaign indicates that the system proposed by Scottish Ministers today will, when operational, divert around 140,000 empty cans and bottles from litter to recycling every day.

Jenni Hume, Campaign Manager for the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign, said:

“The deposit system set out today is a major step in the right direction, setting the pace for the rest of the UK, and it will have a substantial positive impact on litter and recycling. It’s great news that the Scottish Government are ready for the system to expand in future to include more drinks containers, which will be both more effective and easier for the public to use.”

Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“This is great news: the system announced today will provide a huge boost for recycling of bottles and cans, reduce litter across Scotland, and save both materials and climate change emissions. This is a great start to getting the public to do even more recycling and it is the kind of system which can be expanded to other products over time. This scheme will set a good benchmark to influence the thinking for a similar scheme for England and the ideal is that the two schemes will eventually work in the exactly the same way.”

But the scheme was also part of an international day of action for a ‘Clean Planet’, a global network of campaigners and organisations have come together to call for world-wide deposit return systems to stop the environmental damage caused by the vast amounts of drinks containers produced, sold and thrown away every day. At 9.00am this morning on 9 May 2019 in each country, over a 24-hour period, a network of groups from 23 countries across five continents today released a series of aerial photographs and videos of messages written on hillsides, beaches and buildings calling for a ‘Clean Planet’.

The global stunt is aimed at raising awareness of the environmental impact of drinks packaging, with an international call for action for governments across the world to extend, update or introduce a deposit return system in each country respectively, as the best solution to drinks container pollution.

In a joint statement the Clean Planet campaigners said:

“The scale of the pollution problem requires immediate global action. Now is the time for every government around the world to stand up and take action against the environmental devastation caused by drinks cans, bottles and cartons – we cannot wait any longer for a clean planet.

“Through effective deposit return systems that collect and accept every single type of drinks container, introduced right across the world, we have a chance to stop choking our planet with the trillions of bottles, cans and cartons that are produced every single year.”

Tara Proud, Volunteer & Community Engagement Manager for MCS Scotland, said:

“The case for deposit return in this country has been built by many people, across NGOs, politics and business, and with the strong support of the public. Our Sea Champion volunteers have had a key role to play in that, helping produce the citizen data which showed the role an inclusive deposit return system could play in beating beach litter. Almost 3,000 members of the public took part in the Great British Beach Clean in Scotland alone last year, generating the supporting research which helped get us here, and I am so proud of the contribution our volunteers have made. There’s much more still to be done, but this is a great day for us, and I hope one day deposit return will be in place across the whole world.”

When introduced, effective deposit return systems simultaneously boost recycling rates for drinks containers to more than 90%, reduce the environmental damage they cause by stopping them from being littered and make producers of these products responsible for the cost of the waste that they create.

In the process, more recycled content is used to create drinks containers and more refillable containers are used as part of a circular economy, which in turn creates jobs, reduces waste and slows down the depletion of natural resources.

In 2015, it was it was estimated that 1.6 trillion drinks containers were sold across the world. Using growth projections based on the increase in the numbers drinks container sold from 2014 to 2015, global sales of aluminium cans, glass and plastic bottles, as well as drinks cartons, pouches, sachets, look set to reach 1.9 trillion in 2019

Yet ineffective waste collection and recycling systems across the world mean that a large number of these single-use products are left polluting the environment, and many that are collected as waste are either sent for incineration or buried in landfill, rather than recycled.

This is a for breakthrough for Scotland, a genuine game-changer for changing our relationship to waste and the throwaway society.

Comments (8)

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  1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Let me stress that I’m not agin this but I do wonder just how this is going to fit in with our and many others segregated rubbish collection and here in Shetland at great expense?

    I also well remember as a lad collecting jeely jars and lemonade bottles to take back to the shop and yes a lot of ‘Wee Dumpies’ to go to the Off Licence. I also remember the bollicking I got for raiding my mams stock of jeely jars for her summer and autumn jam making!!!

  2. Doug Hepburn says:

    I agree this is a way forward, and have in the past supported the idea, though with some reservations that still remain.

    No matter what the deposit amount is set at there will still be some items that are not returned, for a multitude of reasons. This mean more deposits will come than go out. Where will the unclaimed deposits end up?

    This does nothing to address the use of plastics that cannot be recycled, including (but not limited to) microwavable black plastic trays.

    There is a likelihood that some outlets (garages/convenience stores) will install drinks dispensers and start using non-recyclable cups such as those used in well know fast food outlets at present. We need to put a charge, not a deposit on all of these single use cups to reduce the number use and encourage more people to have reusable refillable alternatives.

  3. Alistair Taylor says:

    About time!
    The litter situation in some parts of Scotland is out of hand.
    Disgraceful, deplorable, disgusting.
    (And, i look forward to eking out my meagre pension by grubbing around collecting discarded cans and bottles).
    Pititinthebinmin, as an old campaign slogan used to say.

  4. Gary says:

    Whilst I fully support policies like this, the way that responsibility for plastic pollution is constantly being placed upon the consumer it’s becoming tiresome to the point of negligence when it comes from politicians.

    When are we going to hear politicians taking on big corporations, and specifically the fishing industry? The majority of plastics in oceans are from fishing – not to forget the damage to marine life and habitats – yet it rarely manages more than a footnote as politicians of every hue fall over themselves to support the most damaging sectors.

    Again, I think deposit schemes are good ideas and I am not at all criticising those behind it, but it also isn’t enough. We need to think bigger than cotton-buds, straws and bottles – constantly focusing on these things isn’t going to reverse climate breakdown, nor is it going to clean up our oceans. Those who are most responsible and who profit most are being let off the hook.

    1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

      Gary, On this occasion I must stick-up for my local fishermen who bring back to Lerwick or Scalloway harbours where the Cooncil provide skips for them to dump rubbish collected from their nets. I’ve seen the boats coming in with piles of debris stacked on their decks. So not all bad.

  5. colin cassidy says:

    is the infurstucture for recycling in place?doubtful. I remember 10 years ago on the island of lanzarote the government was found to be burying glass bottles (to be dug up later to be recycled) aye right.

  6. Kevin Brown says:


  7. Morag Williams says:

    There is a recycling system in New South Wales, Australia: plastic bottles can be deposited for cash at various centres. An incidental “benefit” of this system is that various individuals “raid” the garbage bins in the evening/night and retrieve plastic bottles that would otherwise go to land fill. I presume these individuals then take the bottles to deposit centres for cash. So, an extra benefit is that people who have time but little money can get a little extra cash. It is of course absurd that there are poor people in Australia, but if they can get a little extra and help the environment, we might be moving in the right direction.

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