Scotland’s plastic bottle scheme is game-changer for recycling | UK News

Scotland’s decision to bring in a deposit on drinks bottles and cans is a game-changer for recycling.

The environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced in Holyrood that cans, plastic bottles and glass will be included in a deposit return scheme which could be up and running in Scotland by 2021.

It’s just 20p – small change – and consumers will get it back when they return the empty.

But other countries that have introduced bottle deposit schemes (DRS) have seen recycling rates double to 90% or more.

Plasticus was used to show the scale of the ocean pollution, by Sky's campaign
Plasticus was used to show the scale of the ocean pollution, by Sky’s campaign

Sky Ocean Rescue started campaigning for a DRS in January 2017 because the evidence is so overwhelming.

I revealed 18 months ago astonishing research showing that 700,000 plastic bottles are littered every day in the UK. But a small deposit could reduce that to just 100,000.

It also makes sense in the context of climate change. Recycling one tonne of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon.

More from Sky Ocean Rescue

The Scottish Government has a track record of bold initiatives. It was the first part of the UK to introduce a public smoking ban, the first to bring in a minimum price on alcohol, and now the first to bring in a deposit scheme.

England’s plans for bottle deposits lag behind.

A plastics return machine in Sydney, Australia
A plastics return machine in Sydney, Australia

A public consultation on a scheme closes next week (13 May). Then it’ll be weeks if not months before we hear the outcome.

The UK’s environment secretary Michael Gove is in favour of a DRS. But there is uncertainty over what England’s scheme would look like.

Retailers are lobbying for it to apply only to bottles 500ml or smaller, which tend to be bought on-the-go. They argue household recycling can sweep up the larger sizes.

But barely half of all drinks bottles consumed at home end up being recycled, so environmental groups are demanding an ‘all-in’ scheme. It’s a far clearer message to consumers – and it’s proven to work abroad.

:: Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at

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