I can remember when lorries used to come to the door and drop off bottles of "pop" (Vimto / Dandelion & B / Cream Soda / Lemonade / etc) and pick up empties. There were deposits on the bottles as an incentive to return them so they could be reused. It wasn't called recycling in those days. The neatness of this scheme was that bottles that went awol were picked up by small boys (and maybe girls) in order to augment their miserly pocket money. This wasn't a national scheme. It wasn't overseen by bureaucrats. There were no standards, rules, or threats of fines. No registration scheme you had to sign up to. It was just what the company – Arnisons – did to help their business. How things have changed.
The UK is planning a national deposit / return scheme. It will be loosely based on the German model which seems to work smoothly, from what I have seen, but that's Germans for you. I fear that here it might become a nightmare.
I base that fear on two thoughts. Firstly, it's being organised as a top-down scheme from Whitehall which is well versed in overcomplication. Secondly, the Scottish government has already shown what a Horlicks it is possible to generate with little thought and effort. But that's county councils for you.
Holyrood, determined not to wait for a UK-wide scheme (presumably lest they be accused of being told what to do by the UK), have gone their own way. There is even a new quango – Circularity Scotland – to oversee it. I wonder why that makes me think of the Circumlocution Office? It's Lorna Slater, the green minister, who's notionally in charge.
The policy has been criticised as “unworkable” by 600 businesses, and one experienced SNP MSP, Fergus Ewing, has said that this scheme is the ‘worst idea I’ve seen in 43 years in politics’. And SNP MSPs, remember, don't normally speak out of turn.
He said the deposit return scheme would “decimate” the drinks sector and he warned that tens of thousands of businesses would face “severe adverse consequences”. The initiative is set to be launched in August. It has managed to be both overdue and not quite ready.
The deposit scheme requires drinks producers and businesses selling single-use drinks containers to recycle them. Shops will charge 20p for every drink bought in a container made from steel, aluminium, glass or plastic, to be refunded upon recycling. It will be an offence to sell a drink in a container covered by the rules in Scotland if its producer is not registered with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. It will include glass bottles despite there being an excellent existing glass recycling scheme across the country. The Times has more details.