We have got the bottle!

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 5 September 2017

Deposit return system on the way for Scotland

Buoyed by today’s announcement in Scottish Parliament, MCS Scotland Conservation Officer Catherine Gemmell describes what it has been like on the campaign trail for a deposit return system, and her thoughts on what needs to happen now for it to be a success.

It was on my second day working for MCS that I introduced to the idea of a deposit return system at a Call for Evidence event being held at Heriot Watt University. I bought a can from their cafe and when finished its contents I popped the can into the reverse vending machine. I got a credit note for 10p - I was sold!

Straight away I could see the benefits for our oceans, our beaches and our society. Giving people an incentive to recycle is a fantastic idea to increase the amount of cans and bottles being recycled which would also mean less being littered on our beaches and entering our oceans.

5p Bottle

I was convinced, now it was time to convince the Scottish Government that this would be the best next step after their success with the 5p carrier bag charge. And so began two and a half years of campaigning for me, adding to more than a decade of work by MCS and our partners to bring about change for good.

We’ve put on lots of thought-provoking, outside-the-box ways to make the issue clear, all with the serious aim of improving pollution levels on our coastlines. With the hashtag #wildbottlesighting any littered or ‘wild’ bottles spotted could be photographed and posted to social media - our map shows these #wildbottlesightings are not just at the coast but also in parks, streets and rivers.

Bottle Map

Together with our partners in the Have You Got The Bottle coalition, we invited MSPs to a Parliamentary event with a label on bottles found on a local Edinburgh beach! And we took pupils from Cramond Primary School, with a jellyfish made out of plastic bottles, to talk with MSPs - they expertly answered questions on Deposit Return Systems and described why they think it would be good for Scotland.

We were delighted before the summer when Roseanna Cunningham announced that the Scottish Government were going to be commissioning system design - and now we hear First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announce today that Scotland will be implementing a deposit return system as part of ‘Scotland’s Programme for Government 2017-18’ - we are absolutely ecstatic!

We’ll need to make sure that Zero Waste Scotland and Scottish Government design the system specifically for Scotland’s needs, taking into account current recycling methods, small busisnesses and rural communities. We hope to see a big decrease in numbers of #wildbottlesighting reports in future.

As we all know the sea knows no boundaries so the challenge has been set - Scotland has the bottle - what about the rest of the UK?