Green bottles

At the end of last month, I was reading a few newspaper articles about recycling, in particular the government’s plan to bring back a deposit return scheme.  There are to be trials in several shops in central Scotland to see how retailers get on and how customers react.  But this being a very sensible Scottish government proposal, all is not plain sailing.

The plan is that folk will pay an additional 10p which they’ll get back on return of an empty plastic bottle or can.  These go into a machine in the shop which’ll flatten them so more can be stored. A company called Envipco will then collect and recycle the empties. Customers can opt to donate to local charities instead of getting their 10p back.  The trial is starting this month and will go on until April with the support of the Scottish Grocers Federation.

Now, I hope you’re thinking, as I do, that this sounds like a pretty good scheme: it’ll boost recycling, cut down on littering, save some animal lives and provide opportunities for enterprising bairns to make some money.  Yes, we’re supping with the devil: the Head of Sustainability at Coca Cola European Partners Great Britain is on board, saying “We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland to make sure we design a scheme that works for Scottish businesses and Scottish shoppers, and makes the biggest possible impact on littering and recycling.”

A waterside scene in Scotland.

However, this being Scotland, we’ve got to have opposition just for the sake of it.  At least one supermarket – Asda, unsurprisingly – and a couple of drinks companies are reported to have lobbied against the scheme.  The Scottish Parliament’s lobbying register shows that Asda’s Corporate Affairs Manager (and former Lib Dem Head of Policy) had a meeting with Fergus Ewing in September last year and, according to The Ferret, was writing to him in October 2015 to say that a deposit return scheme would be a “regressive step that would penalise people on low incomes and cause serious inconvenience for shoppers.”

What havers!  When I was wee, there was a scheme for the return and reuse of ginger bottles which worked perfectly well.

I’m indebted to The Ferret again for the information that A G Barr and Highland Spring have also been putting their oars in, with Barr’s chief executive, Roger White, telling Fergus Ewing and Nicola Sturgeon that there would be “considerable cost and complexity” if the scheme was set up only in Scotland.  One of their commercial directors – Jonathan Kemp – had a discussion with Murdo Fraser in June last year about the scheme needing to be on a Great Britain-basis.  Now I wonder what these two blokes have got in common?

Highland Spring seem to be worried that fewer folk will be buying bottled water if the price goes up by 10p and they want the value of the deposit to be “low or zero”.  Oh dear me, a decline in the sale of bottled water would be a very good thing in my book.  They’re also worried about a “risk of fraud” if there isn’t a “consistent scheme across the UK”.  Will bairns from Eyemouth or Gretna be going on cross-border raids to bring back plastic bottles for recycling and enrichment purposes?  Maybe we could put a saltire on every bottle sold in Scotland to prevent this terrible fraud.

Friends of the Earth Scotland have pointed out that these deposit return schemes work perfectly well in other countries such as Germany, Iceland, Croatia, the Netherlands and Estonia.  Their Director Richard Dixon said that although industry has almost given up trying to stop the scheme happening in Scotland, there are still attempts to “weaken or delay it”.  He added that waiting for a UK scheme was just an industry ruse as that could take years, if it ever happened at all.  He also made the comparison with the plastic bag tax when retailers and others claimed that it couldn’t be done just in Scotland:  “… it was and it is a roaring success”.  He wants the drinks industry and their PR consultants and front groups to “shut up and get ready to do their bit to deliver a world-class DRS for Scotland.”  Good on him!

If you’ve got time, have a look at a BBC news website article on 13/2/19 – Plastic pollution: one town smothered by 17,000 tonnes of rubbish.  You’ll be inspired by the small group of Malaysians in their slogan polo shirts but also ashamed of how we’re dumping our plastic rubbish in other countries.

To cheer us up, other BBC website news items worth looking at are: Fighting “All You Can Eat” waste at a hotel in Norway (2/2/19) and How one woman is winning the fight against food waste (July 2018).  This latter one is about Selina Juul, a Russian woman living in Denmark who is not short on gumption and this is my third mention of her.

Closer to home, a Food Sharing Hub on Bread Street in Edinburgh opened on 24 January to ‘sell’ fruit, vegetables and bakery products from some supermarkets which have joined the ‘rescued food’ scheme – Tesco, Lidl, the Co-op.  These grocery stores donate food which is still safe to eat but might be past its best before date.  Customers at the Hub make a donation for the food which would otherwise be heading for landfill.  So far, it’s open for only three afternoons a week – Thursday to Saturday – but it’s a start and wouldn’t it be great if branches opened up in every big town?

Volunteer workers in the Food Sharing Hub

Here at home, I’m watching my grass grow and looking forward to getting my push mower up and running.  It makes much less noise, needs no electricity, takes minimum effort but gives me some exercise; there’s no electric cable to worry about cutting through and it can cut damp grass.  I bought it last year and I love it.



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