Introduce refillable containers to tackle waste at source

A new report launched last week shows just a 10-percentage point increase in reusable beverage packaging globally could eliminate 1 trillion single-use bottles and cups and prevent 153 billion single-use bottles and cups from entering the world’s oceans [1]. This comes as Scottish environmental campaigners call for stronger circular economy measures domestically to address Scotland’s throwaway culture and tackle the climate crisis. Currently, only 1.3% of the resources Scotland uses are currently cycled back into the economy [2].

The report, produced by ocean advocacy organisation Oceana, underscores the advantages of refillable systems, emphasising their role in reducing single-use waste, mitigating carbon footprints, and creating new economic opportunities through job creation in the refill infrastructure sector. 

The report also highlights large-scale reusable packaging systems are in place around the world – including in the Philippines where 40% of the volume of all packaged non-alcoholic beverages sold are in reusable bottles. Until 2015, Irn Bru makers AG Barr’s operated a refill scheme for 110 years, where customers returning glass bottles for reuse would receive 30p for every bottle returned. Bottles would then be sanitised, refilled, and placed back on supermarket shelves. 

Campaigners say this evidence highlights the need for refill and reuse targets in the Scottish Circular Economy Bill. Dr. Kat Jones, director of Action to Protect Rural Scotland, said:

“The Circular Economy Bill is our chance to drive real change which is drastically needed in Scotland. Tinkering around the edges of our throwaway economy won’t go far enough. We need proven solutions that shift the needle, making Scotland circular and sustainable.

“Refillables are the low-hanging fruit here; they reduce litter in our towns, countryside, and waterways and offer a clear path to reducing waste. Other countries have shown that this is possible and effective; now it’s Scotland’s turn to step up, introduce reuse schemes, and tackle waste at the source”. 

“We’ve spent too much time chasing circular fantasies while huge amounts of plastic continue to flood into our oceans,” said Matt Littlejohn, Oceana’s Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. “We’ve estimated that a stack of the single-use plastic packaging used by the beverage sector in 2022 alone could reach all the way to the sun and back. Adding recycled content to bottles and cups won’t topple this single-use plastic tower. The way to really make a difference is to replace single-use plastic with reusable packaging. We need companies and governments to stop betting on the wrong horse with recycling and to prioritize the expansion and re-establishment of reusable packaging systems instead. By switching to this real circular solution, we can drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans, in the bellies of whales and turtles, and washed up on our beaches.” 

[1]  Oceana’s ‘Refill Again’ report, https://oceana.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2023/11/Refill-Again_Oceana_Nov2023-FINAL-reduced.pdf

[2] Circularity Gap Report Scotland https://www.circularity-gap.world/scotland
APRS (Action to Protect Rural Scotland) is Scotland’s countryside charity. We campaign to promote, enhance and protect Scotland’s countryside and rural landscapes for everyone’s benefit, and support others to do the same. Our work spans local planning issues, green belt protection, and litter and circular economy. Visit aprs.scot to find out more

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 275 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit Oceana.org to learn more. 

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For enquiries call 0131 225 7012 and press 1 or email kat@aprs.scot

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