Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is causing a stir in the UK, as the country struggles to establish an exception to current rules that prevent the application of different regulations to the same product sold in both Scotland and England. The scheme was planned to start in August, allowing Scottish businesses to add 20 pence (0.23 euros) to the price of single-use bottles and cans, with customers being able to get that money back by returning their bottles for recycling. The goal is to reach a 90% bottle and can collection rate by 2024, which would add up to more than 1.2 million tons of CO2 saved over the next 25 years. However, the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, intends to deny a request by the Scottish National Party for an exemption, which could prevent the plan from going ahead.
Meanwhile, other countries in Europe have already implemented similar deposit return systems. Norway has one of the oldest systems in the world, introduced in 1902, with a target collection rate of 95%. Its success has led to customers paying 2 NOK (about 0.20 euros) for containers of 0.5 liters or less, and 3 NOK (about 0.30 euros) for those over 0.5 liters. Germany also has a very successful bottle deposit system, with a 90% return rate for both plastic and metal containers.
Despite the success of these schemes, politicians in Scotland have criticized the DRS. Some fear that this measure will increase costs for businesses, while others have concerns about the current regime in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and Wales not being consistent with the DRS. The Scottish Circular Economy Minister, Lorna Slater, is standing by the scheme, however, and is confident the target date of August 16 will stick. He has assured businesses that there has already been a year-long delay to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and millions have already been invested in the project. If successful, the DRS could help Scotland to become a leader in the circular economy, while reducing its carbon emissions and encouraging sustainable practices for its citizens.