Deposit return scheme: If Berlin and Adelaide can do it, why all the fuss in Scotland? – Vladimir McTavish
I have been doing shows out in Australia this past month, and am finding it quite entertaining observing life in Scotland.
For example, I really cannot fathom why people back home are kicking up such a fuss over the Scottish Government’s planned deposit return scheme.
Currently, I am in Adelaide, a city very like Edinburgh. It has a lot of churches, an annual fringe festival and very slow-moving trams in the city centre. But unlike Edinburgh, it has a fully functioning and widely-used scheme for returning deposit-paid bottles and cans. However, it did take time for it to fully catch on with retailers and the public.
In previous years, staff in bottle shops seemed unaware of how they were able to refund the ten cents that I had paid on my now-empty beer cans. Now, three years after my last visits, the entire city appears to be on board with the scheme. In Adelaide’s main shopping precinct, Rundle Mall, there are bins every hundred metres where people can leave returnable bottles.
I was in Berlin in October, and every supermarket has a bottle bank where you can leave your empties and receive a credit note in return. For years, in various states in the USA, liquor stores have operated a similar system. So why is there so much resistance in Scotland?
Some of the arguments simply don’t stack up. For example, it is claimed some can’t afford to spend an extra £1.20 on a six-pack. There is a very simple answer to that. Don’t be conned into buying a six-pack. And don’t listen to the idiots complaining about the extra cost. What extra cost? There is no extra cost. You get the 20p back. That’s how deposits work.
The UK government says it is impractical to have different arrangements north and south of the Border. Again, utter nonsense. While there is a deposit scheme in South Australia, there is not one in Western Australia. And guess what? They share a border.
I can understand it is potentially a bit of a hassle for small shops. However, retailers will undoubtedly benefit from the scheme if it operates as it does in Germany. Anyone receiving a credit note from a bottle bank in a supermarket is 99 per cent certain to spend that money in the same store.
There is also an added bonus in social terms. Quite aside from protecting the environment, in both Berlin and Adelaide, their deposit return schemes provide a much-needed income stream for homeless people. I saw a homeless guy pushing a shopping trolley through the centre of Adelaide yesterday, containing several hundred empties, I reckon getting on for 50 dollars’ worth. That’s literally trickle-down economics in practice.
Like many ideas to help shape the future, this one has its roots in the past. Anyone born before 1980 will remember the deposit paid on lemonade bottles and kids knocking on the door asking for empties. Furthermore, the more beer you drink, the more bottles you return. The more bottles you return, the more you’re helping the environment.
Drinking more than 20 units a week used to be deemed borderline alcoholism. Not anymore. Do you drink too much? Do people call you a lush? Tell them you’re saving the planet.