September 20, 2023

Is glass important to the Scottish deposit system?

Glass bottles

The Scottish government wants to include glass bottles in their plans

The Scottish Government’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) could be scrapped after Westminster refused to greenlight the inclusion of glass.

The DRS sees a surcharge on the price of single-use products, such as glass, which is refunded when they are recycled.

However, the UK government said this would be too different from their scheme which will be rolled out in 2025.

The Scottish Minister for the Circular Economy, Lorna Slater, called this an attempt to sabotage the plans.

In a statement to the House of Representatives, she said that it does not make sense to include glass in plans.

The scheme was originally due to start in Scotland in July last year but has been postponed twice due to implementation concerns for many businesses that would be affected.

British arrangement

The UK government has plans to roll out its own deposit refund scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2025. Aside from the timetable, the main difference between the two proposals is the exclusion of glass.

Like the Scottish plans, the scheme aims to increase recycling rates by adding 20 pence to the price of a single-use bottle or can, which is refunded to people who return it to a retailer or catering establishment selling single-use products offers.

In England and Northern Ireland, the scheme only covers polyethylene terephthalate (plastic) bottles, steel and aluminum cans.

Wales has listed the inclusion of glass in its proposals but has yet to apply for, or receive an exclusion from, the Internal Market Act to allow it.

Woman recycles bottles

The DRS would ensure that customers get a refund by returning empty bottles

An exemption from the Internal Market Act is needed due to fears that different regulations in different parts of the UK would effectively create barriers to trade.

The argument has raised questions about whether the scheme should go ahead without the inclusion of glass to avoid delaying it any longer.

The British Soft Drinks Association has backed a UK DRS, saying it is the only “viable option”.

British Glass, an organization representing glass manufacturers in the UK, has said glass recycling can be improved without DRS.

On social media, the organization said: “Kerbside collections can be improved in Scotland and the powers included in the forthcoming Circular Economy Act and through UK EPR (extended producer responsibility) could deliver even higher glass recycling rates.

“Wales has already achieved this without including glass in a DRS.”

By 2022, 67% of municipal waste in Wales was recycled, making it the top UK nation in recycling.

Glass recycling in Scotland

Currently, recycling in Scotland is the responsibility of local authorities.

Recycling services vary by municipality, with some offering curbside collection for all types of recycling, while some say it is too expensive.

Glasgow City Council offers curbside glass collection through a purple bin, which is collected every eight weeks. In Edinburgh glass is collected in much smaller hand bins and in East Renfrewshire it is a monthly gray waste collection.

West Lothian council does not offer household waste collection, citing the imminent introduction of the DRS as the reason.

Instead, residents are being asked to use bottle banks and recycling centers to dispose of glass. The municipality also says that the high infrastructure costs, such as investments in new garbage trucks to provide this service, are a reason the service is not offered.

Neither Highland Council nor Argyll and Bute provide street glass collection.

According to Zero Waste Scotland, 70%-90% of glass in Scotland was recycled in 2017.

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