The Scottish government has recently announced that it aiming to create a deposit return for drinks containers which will include Glass, Plastic and Metal. While this move is being applauded by most in the environmental sector dissenting voices can be heard from those with previous experience most notably AG Barr Ltd who for over 140 years ran such a system.
Their view is that since the introduce of council run kerbside collections the feasibility of such schemes has dropped considerably. From a high return rate of 99% in 1954, the company saw rates fall to 54% which resulted in them abandoning their collections in 2015. This leads to an interesting point and one which was raised at a meeting of the Scottish Environmental Services Association. If the higher value waste materials are removed from domestic kerbside collections then the viability of these contracts will come into question and costs will rise as these materials will no longer be included in the cost matrix used when pricing these contracts.
In addition to this the deposit fee will be front loaded onto the price of the product and will increase costs for those on the lowest income bracket who will no doubt perceive it as another additional tax. Yes there will be benefits for those budding entrepreneurs who will no doubt see the opportunities it will present but it could also lead to waste materials being transported north from England if such a scheme isn’t introduced there in unison. The final point which has yet to be addressed is how the system would work given the geography of Scotland. How will the transport of the materials and the costs involved in transporting them be managed. Where will the material be reprocessed? Who will transport the materials from the highlands to the reprocessing source. What effect will volatile waste material prices have on the long term viability of the scheme?
It has been reported that the introduction of such a system, if it results in an 80% collection rate, will see recycling levels increase from 57% to 59%. This the begs the question is there a better way to achieve this 2% increase. Once all these questions have been answered and a fully detailed plan has been produced only then will stakeholders be able to fully back the new system.
- Ian Andrews