In 2004 Oakdene Hollins first studied Deposit Refund systems for beverage containers. We concluded that there was a case for a deposit on some plastic bottles and cans even though this could distort the market in favour of glass as a packaging material. We acknowledged that it would often be a deposit to encourage recycling, and not refilling. We argued, too, that a well-designed scheme could even direct the refunds through appointed voluntary groups such as church groups to charities. Local authority recycling schemes were then in their infancy and so the impact on them would have been significant but modest.

The Scottish Government has announced this month its intention to implement a deposit refund system targeted at beverage containers (see External Link, below). This is not going to be as easy, but it does have the potential to drive up recycling rates, especially for the drinks consumed on-the-go and away from home. Once again it is the light-weight plastics material that looks like being the main target, as concern about contamination of the marine environment reaches new heights.

The Scottish Government is not alone in deciding to refocus limited resources on this totemic issue. The Scottish proposal takes its lead from other European countries bordering the North Sea. As governments around the world ask how best to tackle the issue of extended producer responsibility, we look forward to continuing our work with companies and trade associations that want to take a lead in product stewardship. Similar challenges will follow for many other products.

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