Scotland unveils plans for bottle return scheme as it looks to tackle plastic pollution

Key Points
  • Consumers would pay a 20 pence deposit when buying a drink, which would be refunded if they return their bottle or can for recycling.
  • Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste per year, according to the European Commission.
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The Scottish government has announced plans for what it describes as an "ambitious" deposit return scheme for drinks containers. 

In an announcement Wednesday, authorities said the scheme would cover aluminium and steel cans and also include drinks containers made from glass and polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.

Under the scheme, consumers would pay a 20 pence (26 cents) deposit when buying a drink, which would be refunded if they return their bottle or can for recycling.

The government said that all shops selling drinks would offer deposit refunds to consumers. Returns can be made manually or through a reverse vending machine, which will scan containers once returned and allow customers to get their money back.

Roseanna Cunningham, Scotland's environment secretary, described the proposed scheme as "ambitious in scale and scope." Draft legislation on the plans will be published later this year.

Plastic pollution is a pressing problem around the world. Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste per year, according to the European Commission, with less than 30 percent of this collected for recycling.

The Scottish plans were welcomed by environmental organizations. "We are very pleased with today's announcement that the system will include glass, along with some plastics and aluminium, and all sizes of those drinks containers," Calum Duncan, the Marine Conservation Society's head of conservation, Scotland, said in a statement.