Glass makes for a better deposit return scheme - Lorna Slater

Circular economy minister Lorna Slater. Picture: Jane Barlow/PACircular economy minister Lorna Slater. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA
Circular economy minister Lorna Slater. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA
I love the visitors, the energy, the entertainment and the bustle of our city. But one thing I don't love is the litter.

One of the downsides of living in central Edinburgh is the litter, and particularly the broken glass, that routinely finds its way onto our streets and into our parks.

We've all seen it. Even when you're walking up Arthur's Seat or Calton Hill or down by the canal, particularly when the sun is out, it feels like you're never far away from discarded glass bottles.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It's not just an eyesore, it is the scourge of every cat or dog owner and lots of parents.

In Scotland we go through 550 million glass bottles a year, from wine to beer to soft drinks they line our shelves. Thankfully a lot of them are recycled, but many of them are not.

Our refuse workers do a great job of cleaning up our city and bringing out the best in it. But what if we reduced the amount of glass and the plastic that they have to deal with in the first place?

That's what's at the heart of Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme, a scheme that uses a 20p deposit to incentivise the safe return and recycling of cans and bottles.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

We would simply pay the 20p when buying the can or bottle and get it back upon returning it to one of the thousands of return points.

The legislation for the scheme, which is set to launch next March, was originally passed by our Parliament in 2020, so it has been a long time coming.

However, as you may have seen, a new complication was sprung on it over the weekend from Westminster, with the UK government, at the 11th hour, demanding that glass be entirely removed from our scheme if it is to get their approval.

That goes against the many successful schemes already in place around the world, the vast majority of which use glass.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With so many glass bottles being circulated and discarded every day, there is no environmental case for taking them out of the scheme.

Nor is there a democratic one. Our Parliament voted overwhelmingly for this scheme in 2020.

Every party has accepted the need for glass to be included, including the Tories themselves who had an unambiguous pledge for it in their 2019 manifesto.

Over recent months we have seen Westminster waging a campaign against devolution and our democracy. Where does it end? The Scottish Parliament is at its best when we are designing Scottish solutions and leading the UK.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Scottish Government will have to reflect hard on this while we analyse what the consequences of such a significant change, at such a late stage, would be and what it would do to the scheme’s viability.

Wherever we get to I am just as committed to the benefits that a Deposit Return Scheme can bring.

Every time I see a bottle in the grass or shards of broken glass on pavement on on the beach it makes me more determined that we do all we can to reduce that blight.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.