Leading the UK once more: Scotland plans deposit return scheme for bottles and cans


Archive image c.1977, courtesy of Alistair Kerr.

First to implement no-smoking bans in enclosed spaces, then whole campuses, and still working hard to implement a minimum price for alcohol, Scotland is first with plans to introduce a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans. Witness as I’m sure you all are to the blight of discarded garbage in Scotland’s streets and places of scenic beauty, I strongly welcome this plan and, once more it’s good to see our government getting on with the kind of things most of us want to see happen.

It’s estimated that, in addition to the obvious aesthetic benefits, the scheme could save Scottish local authorities between £3 and £6 per year on litter clearance alone. Just as in the old days you’d get a refund on returning items to a shop. Shops would, of course, require a surcharge when the items were bought.

I know some folk would still throw their empties away but an army of entrepreneurial wee tykes would soon be organising themselves with big bags and doing the councils’ litter collection job for them. I was part of such a team of wee businessmen back in the 1950s and early 60s. I also seem to remember taking empty jam jars for entry to the proudly named Empire Electric/La Scala in Grangemouth in the same period for the matinee shows when you could hear nothing but the booing and cheering of the bairns in attendance. Used as the illustration above because I can. It’s my blog. I see, too, that a Tyneside community cinema has partly restored the scheme this year. Tyneside is of course, more like Scotland than South-east England.

Similar schemes are already in place in Scandinavia and 78% of Scots expressed support in a poll but AG Barr has opposed it. The Whisky Association oppose minimum alcohol pricing and I feel sure the tobacco companies opposed the measures to reduce smoking. What do you expect? It’s our world not theirs.




11 thoughts on “Leading the UK once more: Scotland plans deposit return scheme for bottles and cans

  1. Raymond K Melville September 5, 2017 / 12:56 pm

    It has always struck me as odd that that theWhisky Association has opposed minimum alcohol pricing, as they will not be affected by it due to whisky being relatively expensive and the cheap cider and beer manufacturers being the affected parties. Perhaps it’s political and a case of SNPbaad.


    • johnrobertson834 September 5, 2017 / 1:58 pm

      Yes my thoughts too. Can’t say I understand them. Do whisky companwn cheap drink manufacturers too?


  2. Alasdair Macdonald September 5, 2017 / 1:26 pm

    On a couple of occasions the topic of recycling of bottles and cans has been the theme of the BBC Radio Scotland phone-in and, on each occasion the principal speaker in the studio has been the representative of the small shopkeepers who is implacably opposed to the scheme on the basis that the small shops have no space to store the returned bottles.

    As someone who volunteers to clean up the streets of Glasgow, the heaviest work is in the vicinity of secondary schools (primary schools are pretty good citizens!) and most of that litter is discarded food and drink packaging on the route between the small shops and the schools. A typical ‘meal deal’ from these shops contains NINE pieces of disposable wrapping/container.

    Several approaches to deal with this problem, but, since the topic is the return of drinks containers, then these same small shops, which seem to have plenty of space for the FULL bottles and cans, could provide a facility for the return of the containers. Once emptied, these containers can be easily crushed by hand into a much smaller volume and so take up far less room. The ones discarded between shop and school would almost certainly be scooped up by other children who would return them and get the deposit.

    Most children actually use the bins to dispose of their litter, but, these bins are insufficient for the volume inserted, quickly become full to overflowing and wind and gulls spread the litter about. With fewer cans and plastic bottles being placed in the bins – filling it with ’empty space’ – the bins would hold far more of the wrappers and food scraps and the windblown/gull-dispersed rubbish would be reduced.

    As you have pointed out the big suppliers like Barr’s and the Scotch Whisky Association are strongly opposed, because it requires them to take actions, spend money and reduce dividends and bonuses to the ‘high heid yins’. They also trumpet about public sector inefficiency, but, make no mention of the fact that it is the public sector which is paying for their negligence.


  3. Ian Kirkwood September 5, 2017 / 7:49 pm

    The system works a treat in Sweden John and as you rightly say, any throw always are very quickly hoovered up by eager collectors, old a young, organized or freelance.


  4. Ludo Thierry September 5, 2017 / 8:41 pm

    Hi John – Hi all.

    I can sense that the Lib Dems will vote for these deposit-bearing proposals. After all – they seem to demonstrate a dramatic desire to lose as many deposits as possible – whatever the occasion.

    This element of ‘circular economy’ (or ‘recycling’ as John recently reminded us that we used to call it) is one of my favourite bits (amongst many!) of the new Programme for Government. The retailers and manufacturers will girn away – then – once the project has become a roaring success they’ll make out it was, actually, their idea all the time.(Anyone remember the objections to pricing plastic shopping bags?).

    The SWA legal action against the Alcohol Minimum Pricing (AMP) has been really shameful. Raymond is absolutely correct – the AMP proposals won’t affect whisky sales one jot – However, the large whisky distillers are also the owners of the distilleries which produce the cheap white spirits which are the staples of the over energetic alcohol users. (alcohol overuse has a nasty tendency to topple over into alchol abuse – but the large distillery groups are weeping crocodile tears all the way to the bank). They have every right to employ their enormous wealth to pusue all legal avenues to prevent AMP – but the courts will decide in favour of the SNP Scottish Govt because the law is a good law – and the large distillers know it – their behaviour is a stain on their great industry.

    I remember being a dab hand at gathering up the irn-bru bottles from the park as a kid – the deposit money came in mighty useful I can tell you (my folks didn’t have spare money to give us pocket-money). Maybe these are skills I’ll have to polish up again?

    Cheers, ludo


  5. bettyboopwp September 7, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    Shops, when I was a kid in Grangemouth too, didn’t have much of a problem taking Barr bottles back, nor did the ice cream vans. It will be like everything else, they will cope. If some don’t, a lot of customer business may well go elsewhere. Anyway, this is a responsible way to dispose of empties. Maybe we can also persuade companies to stop using so many plastic bottles too.

    BTW, JR, were you one of those kids the La Scala manager chased around the cinema during the matinees or one of those who dropped various objects from the balcony? Don’t recall ever hearing the dialogue in any of those westerns shown given of the incredible din. The entertainment was always provided by the manager’s unsuccessful crowd control antics 🙂


    • johnrobertson834 September 7, 2017 / 3:44 pm

      Hi Betty
      I’m 66
      Went to the Zetland till 63 then the High till 69
      Lived latterly in Skye court near the Community Centre
      Left in 77 for Wallacestone then 84 for Ayr
      As for behaviour, I was a well-behaved wee wimp

      Liked by 1 person

      • bettyboopwp September 8, 2017 / 2:49 pm

        My sister recalls you well; I’m just a couple of years younger but more or less recognised you when standing up to Beeb at Scot Parliament :-).
        Zetland was the best, Ice cream and strawberries arranged by Mr Richardson before school holidays and one school trip per year and that was on Shank’s pony (the trip to the Town Hall to listen to the SNO (“Flight of the Bumblebee always the favourite”); High school never did that! Skint knees on the hard school playground, balls over the wall and into the Carron, warm milk (Yuck) put me off forever. Don St till adulthood; were you in Tweed St.? Living in Ayrshire too for over 30 years.

        Ha Ha . Well-behaved – must have been the auld toon genes. I once got the prize for being the best behaved kid at a work’s Christmas Party – gee, I must have been really boring and can’t say I enjoyed being that well behaved at a party! In old age, very radical and a bit of an anarchist – much more fun 🙂

        Anyway, thanks for your insights – love the positivity.


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