Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) are not new. They are part of everyday life in many countries around the world. And they work – reducing litter and increasing recycling, writes John Lee.
A DRS is, however, new to the UK, with the Scottish Government the first of the country’s governments to introduce the scheme. Like many new initiatives, it has caused controversy.
At TOMRA, we are among the world’s leading suppliers of the reverse vending machines which take items back for recycling. We have seen first-hand how these schemes have worked around the world, which gives us an interesting perspective.
What is clearly evidenced by other countries’ experience is that deposit return schemes do deliver environmental and economic success. International evidence suggests that DRS’ reduce litter by a third, thereby increasing Scotland’s chances of meeting our climate change targets.
Judging by what we have seen elsewhere, we can safely expect that the recycling rate will be anywhere between 92% and 98%. The power of the programme environmentally is undeniable, with handling fees for retailers thought to be the highest in Europe.
With a scheme of such significance, it is, of course, natural that there are many questions to answer, whether they be from producers, retailers or their customers.
At TOMRA, our team based in Scotland are using experience from successes in other countries to provide insight and advice to a broad range of people, organisations and businesses on how the DRS can work here. We are happy to speak to anyone who would like to find out more.
We have – for quite some time – been busy behind the scenes helping people to be ready for August’s go-live, not least in supporting the national drive to have thousands of return points up and running. My installation colleagues, who have developed solutions for retailers of all sizes, are at work across the country.
DRS has a multi-million pound investment behind it, creating jobs in the process.
We were delighted to see Biffa’s recent announcement that it is investing £7.7m in a facility in Aberdeen to sort and bale materials collected as part of the DRS.
With the capability of handling 40,000 tonnes of material per year, the packaging dealt with there will then be sold for recycling. It’s a move which will create about 60 jobs – a sign of the economic benefits of DRS. Biffa’s other counting centres as part of its work on DRS will be at Grangemouth and Motherwell.
At TOMRA, we too have invested in growing our team so that we are best placed to support retailers – and other return point operators – through the process.
Support across Scotland for the introduction of a deposit return scheme is clear.
As part of our work to understand public views about the scheme, we commissioned leading Scotland-based pollsters The Diffley Partnership to ask people what they think.
And they showed strong support, with more than seven-in-10 people (72%) saying that they think DRS should be introduced across the UK.
Almost two-thirds (65%) of those questioned said they were pleased that Scotland is to be the first UK nation to introduce it.
The will exists among the public to do what they can to make the scheme a success, helping to make Scotland cleaner and greener.
In the same way that we are all now used to taking our reusable shopping bags to the shops, we are sure it will soon also feel part of everyday life to return our bottles and cans too.
For our part, we are keen to do whatever we can to make the introduction of DRS as smooth as it possibly can be. It is not for TOMRA to intervene in the current political debate; we are here to help guide Scotland through this whenever it takes place.
John Lee is Vice-President of Public Affairs for TOMRA in the UK and Ireland
Read more about TOMRA’s support for retailers in Scotland here