Scotland needs to “live up to our promises” and implement its deposit return scheme (DRS) as planned next year, campaigners have insisted.
They insisted ministers must not push back the roll-out of the initiative any further – claiming previous delays had resulted in more than 250,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
When the scheme is brought in, it should reduce carbon emissions by about 160,000 tonnes a year.
When the scheme is brought in, shoppers will have to pay a 20p deposit on drinks – with this cash given back to them when they return their empty cans and bottles.
It is due to be brought in in August 2023 but fears have been raised by businesses that its introduction could result in some companies stopping selling their goods in Scotland.
Earlier this month more than 500 figures from across the food, drink and hospitality sector signed an open letter to Lorna Slater, the Scottish Government minister responsible for DRS, calling on her to pause its introduction.
However, with the Cop27 climate summit taking place in Egypt, John Mayhew of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland – which has led the campaign for DRS – said Scotland could not delay its introduction again if it is to be considered a “world leader” on climate issues.
Mr Mayhew said: “As world leaders are discussing solutions to the climate crisis, we are emphasising the need for a successful, well run deposit return scheme in Scotland. This scheme must be made to work for small producers, communities and the environment.
“Scotland is pitching itself as a world leader at Cop27, so needs to implement the most basic policy in moving towards a circular economy.
“We must live up to our promises and implement our deposit return scheme next August as planned.”
Kim Pratt, campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, insisted: “The environmental benefits of a Scottish deposit return scheme are clear for everyone to see, with millions of tonnes of climate-changing emissions saved over the coming decades, plus a huge reduction in littering and better recycling facilities for all.”
She added: “A strong scheme will incentivise industry to make more environmentally friendly products and force them to pay for clean-up costs.
“But industry wants to kick the can down the road with calls for more delays on timescales they have already committed to.”
Catherine Gemmell, Scotland conservation officer for the Marine Conservation Society, said that DRS “can’t come soon enough for Scottish seas”.
At the organisation’s Great British Beach Clean this year she said a “shocking 93% of Scottish beaches cleared and surveyed were polluted with drinks-related litter” – adding that on average, more than 30 bottles, cans, caps and lids were recorded per 100 metres of surveyed beach.
Ms Gemmell said: “By the time our volunteers are back out again for International Coastal Clean Up day next year the Scottish deposit system will be well under way.
“We expect to see a big decrease in the amount of bottles and cans reported in the years ahead.”
Dave duFeu from Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign, added DRS would also benefit cyclists, saying: “One of the many reasons for glass deposits is to reduce broken glass on roads and paths.
“It is not just a question of punctures – perhaps even more important is when cyclists swerve out suddenly to avoid broken glass, with the risk of being hit by any vehicles that are already passing too close.
“On paths, broken glass is a hazard for pedestrians and animals, is very unsightly and, of course, is a puncture risk.
“At a time when the government has strong policies to cut car use, and boost walking and cycling, yet another delay to deposit return would be shameful.”
Ms Slater stated that “Scotland’s deposit return scheme will go live in August 2023 as planned.”
She said glass had been specifically included in the scheme because of “the significant benefits to our climate and to help reduce litter” – urging the UK Government to follow suit on this.
The circular economy minister stressed: “Scotland’s deposit return scheme will recycle billions of bottles and cans a year and forms a vital part of our plans to create a circular economy.
“It will cut climate emissions, tackle littering, and directly address public concerns about the impact of plastic and other waste on our environment.
“Currently, Scotland recycles around 50% of drink containers. Our deposit return scheme aims to increase this to 90%, placing it among the world’s top performing schemes.