DRS will benefit communities and the planet - Lorna Slater
An Edinburgh-born colleague of mine was wistfully recalling how they’d grown up in one of the city’s larger housing estates during the Thatcher years.
Despite the adversity of the time they said that a sense of community had forged a bond and given them a real sense of pride and place.
The picture they painted was one of plant pots on the landing areas, doing shopping runs for elderly neighbours, parents shouting their kids in for dinner-time, a sharp word to deter teenage misadventure, and a collective sense of being part of something and somewhere.
The reason this came up was because we were talking about the Deposit Return Scheme that the Scottish government is launching later this year and that I am overseeing.
My colleague laughed as they took a trip down memory, telling how they used to join their friends in scouring the streets for glass bottles.
They’d place them in a newly ‘appropriated’ milk crate and head to the local corner shop to claim the 5p or 10p they’d get as reward. It fuelled a childhood of sweetie driven enterprise, but it also served a community purpose.
It kept the streets cleaner and kept makeshift football pitches and BMX tracks free from broken glass. It meant litter wasn’t such an issue as taking the bottle back became a habit.
Their point was that the principle of Deposit Return Schemes isn’t new. It’s just that, although other countries have kept it up, we have forgotten or never known the habit in modern times.
Having grown up in Canada it was fun to hear stories of a bygone Scotland. But it also reinforced how making something simple means that most will be happy to be a part of something that helps them and those around.
The Deposit Return Scheme is part of that tradition. It may be the first of its kind in the UK, but the ideas that underpin it have been with us for a long time.
The scheme is simple. It means that we will pay a 20p deposit when we buy a drink, but, once we are finished with our cans or bottles we can simply take them to one of the 17,000 return points that will be available and claim 20p back.
Similar schemes exist across Europe and beyond, and have been ahuge success. We are aiming to replicate that, with a target of 90 per cent uptake.
Right now 34,000 plastic bottles are littered every day in Scotland. By working together we can change that.
From now until the live date of August 16, I will be working with businesses and industry, listening to them and helping to ensure they are ready for it.
There is a role for all of us, whether it is me, you or my nostalgic colleague. The Deposit Return Scheme will be a big step forward for our recycling, but, for many, it will also be a throwback to our past.
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity