Is glass important to Scotland’s deposit return scheme?

Glass bottles

The Scottish government wants to include glass bottles in its plans

The Scottish government’s Return of Deposits Scheme (DRS) may be scrapped after Westminster refused to give the green light for the inclusion of glass.

DRS will see a surcharge added to the price of single-use products like glass, which will be refunded when they are recycled.

However, the UK government has said this would be very different from its scheme, which is due to launch in 2025.

Scottish Government Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater called this an attempt to sabotage the plans.

In a statement to parliament, she said not including glass in the plans “doesn’t make sense”.

The scheme was originally due to launch in Scotland in July last year but has been delayed twice amid concerns about its implementation by many businesses that would be affected.

Scheme across the UK

The UK government has plans to launch its own deposit take-back scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2025. Aside from the timescale, the main difference between the two proposals is the exclusion of glass.

Like the Scottish plans, the scheme aims to increase recycling fees by adding 20p to the price of a disposable bottle or can, which will be refunded to people who return it to a retailer or hospitality establishment offering single-use products.

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

Wales has the inclusion of glass listed in its proposals but has not yet applied for or obtained an exclusion from the Internal Market Act to allow this.

woman recycles bottles

DRS would see customers get cash back when returning empty bottles

An exemption to the Internal Market Act is needed due to concerns that different schemes actually introduce trade barriers in different parts of the UK.

The argument raised questions about whether the scheme should continue without the inclusion of glass to avoid being delayed any longer.

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

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

On social media, the organization said: “Curbside collections can be improved in Scotland and the powers contained in the upcoming Circular Economy Act and through EPR (extended producer responsibility) across the UK can achieve recycling rates of even taller glass.

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

In 2022, 67% of municipal waste in Wales was recycled, making it the best performing country in the UK when it comes to recycling.

Glass recycling in Scotland

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

Recycling services vary by council areas, some offer curbside pickup for recycling of all types, while others say this is too expensive.

Glasgow City Council offers glass collection for houses – but not apartments – via a purple bin, which is collected every eight weeks.

In Edinburgh, glass is collected in much smaller manual bins and East Renfrewshire has a monthly collection in gray bins.

West Lothian council does not offer curbside collection, citing the upcoming introduction of DRS as a reason for this.

Instead, residents are asked to use bottle jars and recycling centers to dispose of glass. The council also says that the high cost of infrastructure, such as investment in new dump trucks to provide this service, is one reason why the service is not offered.

Both Highland Council and Argyll and Bute do not offer curbside glass collection.

In 2017, 70% to 90% of glass in Scotland was recycled, according to Zero Waste Scotland.

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