The Scottish government has announced plans to introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and cans. Under the plans, customers will pay a surcharge on their purchase, and when returning the containers they will receive a small refund.
As part of a consultation with Zero Waste Scotland, the plans are estimated to save up to £6m a year on litter collections alone. Similar schemes have been running in parts of Scandinavia and Germany for years to much success and these were used as case studies for the government's analysis.
A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We have already confirmed that we are looking at new ways to ensure we keep as many valuable materials in circulation for as long as possible and deposit return is one of those options. We have asked Zero Waste Scotland to model a deposit return system to help us assess impacts and benefits."
Any such scheme will need the co-operation of drinks makers with some in favour of the plans while other major companies are opposed. Coca-Cola had initially been against the scheme due to the costs involved, but they later u-turned on this in January 2017.
Other big players remain staunchly opposed, including the maker of Irn Bru, AG Barr, which criticsed the extra costs that would be involved in the scheme. AG Barr also suggested that crime would be a side effect if the plans are implemented.
"The scope for fraud in a Scottish DRS is huge. On a small scale we could see people scavenging in bins for containers, as is the US experience. On a medium scale there is the potential for local authority amenity centre looting," the company said.
"And on a larger scale there is the very real possibility of cross-border trafficking of deposit-bearing containers. It costs around £400 to move a lorry load of cans from England to Scotland. A single lorry could carry 160,000 crushed cans or £32,000 worth of deposits."
Success in Germany
In Britain the plastic bottle recycling rate is less than 60%, but in countries such as Germany, the introduction of schemes like this have seen those numbers rise to around 90%.
When the German government introduced the system in 2003, they too were faced with opposition from bottle companies. Some companies took the German government to court and ultimately failed. But nowadays, most bottle companies are onboard and almost every major supermarket in the country takes part in the scheme.