Our reaction to the UK Government’s announcement on Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme
Published May 27th 2023
Late last night, Westminster told the Scottish Government what it can and can’t do with deposit return, and the big element is they’re trying to force Scotland not to include glass. Over on Twitter we posted our thoughts, which are summarised below.
Before we get to glass, though, there’s a devolution/democracy issue: the Scottish Parliament has had the power to bring in deposit return since 2009 and until very recently no-one would have even hinted at the idea Westminster could interfere with that.
After all, all five parties at Holyrood voted for Scotland’s deposit return regulations, and now UK Ministers are picking and choosing which bits should be permitted to stand.
Although it would have been worse if Westminster had outright refused to allow Holyrood to introduce deposits at all, this now takes us into micromanagement of devolved policy by UK Ministers. Extremely worrying.
There’s also a move to take control over how much the deposit should be, requiring it to be the same across the UK. The same deposit level makes sense, but the 20p set for Scotland is in line with the €0.20 used across much of Europe.
Why glass should not be excluded
Excluding it is a terrible call in so many ways, and is a particularly perverse decision.
Glass is the most carbon-intensive material, and the most costly for councils to clear up. It causes more injuries to wildlife, pets, livestock, and people than aluminium or plastic bottles. It also is a cause of wildfires (here’s an old but clear example)
The issue of injuries to pets, incidentally, isn’t a footnote to this story. It’s a key part of the history of deposit return in Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament first considered a deposit system in 2006 because two primary school pupils were upset that one of their dogs got broken glass in its paw. They’re now nearly 30 years old and we are still no closer to reducing that risk.
Excluding glass risks manufacturers switching away from aluminium in particular, which has the lowest climate impact of all materials when recycled. If this risk does materialise, there will hopefully be overwhelming pressure on Westminster to reconsider.
We get told “kerbside is working”, but almost half of Scottish households don’t even get kerbside glass collection (this is from 2019, but it’s actually worse now!)
More than a million households in Scotland don’t get their glass collected from the kerbside. Just another reason we’re pressing @scotgov to include glass bottles in Scotland’s deposit return system from the start (story by @Mike_Blackley) pic.twitter.com/sxZ9hz6XUF— Have You Got The Bottle? (@yougotthebottle) April 30, 2019
The photo in this article is a particularly glaring illustration of how our current glass recycling infrastructure isn’t up to the job.
All this is why just last week we teamed up with Keep Britain Tidy to urge Rishi Sunak to bring glass back into the proposed English system – which was after all an explicit Conservative manifesto commitment in 2019.
By the Government’s own estimation, a #DepositReturnScheme could reduce littering of glass bottles by 85% and increase recycling rates to more than 90%.— Keep Britain Tidy (@KeepBritainTidy) May 23, 2023
That's why we're urging @RishiSunak to include glass in the government's planned scheme.
Learn more: https://t.co/79lGtnnnm8