Jane Bickerstaffe: Deposit Return Scheme won't stop litterbugs

SELECTIVE measures such as deposit return schemes for drinks containers are not the way tackle the blight of litter, says Jane Bickerstaffe.

Thursday, 12th May 2016, 10:35 am
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2016, 11:37 am
File picture: Steven Scott Taylor
File picture: Steven Scott Taylor

WE all agree that litter is a blight on our environment. Tackling litter is a complex problem and we believe the solution is for everyone – individuals, industry, campaign groups, local and central governments – to join forces and encourage people to take pride in their environment.

Selective measures like a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers would undermine existing recycling and anti-littering initiatives, and would only tackle a small percentage of litter. It would penalise low-income consumers, who would have to pay the extra cost upfront but may find it difficult to reclaim their deposits – unlike the plastic bag levy which consumers can avoid by taking their own bag.

Deposit schemes have no impact on changing a litterer’s behaviour and there is no evidence that they reduce overall litter levels – there is anecdotal evidence that overall litter levels increase as some people empty bins to find deposit-bearing items and leave other rubbish on the ground.

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A deposit system would also undermine Scotland’s successful recycling record. A DRS would result in a substantial loss of income – estimated by Valpak at £8.9 million a year – to local authorities from kerbside recycling.

When Germany introduced a DRS in 2003, its overall recycling rates dropped, and more than ten years later have still not fully recovered. Let’s not make the same mistake.

The cure for litter is education, provision of bins and cleaning infrastructure and enforcement of laws to act as a deterrent as well as punishing offenders.

Businesses play their part by supporting anti-litter campaigns, carrying out research to identify solutions, encouraging consumers to act responsibly and taking the potential for litter into account at the design stage.

Let’s all work together to make it socially unacceptable to deliberately litter anything.

• Jane Bickerstaffe is spokeswoman for Packaging Recycling Group Scotland