The introduction of a deposit return scheme could lead to large-scale looting and cross-border trafficking of recyclables, Irn-Bru’s manufacturer has warned.
AG Barr’s comments came in a submission to a Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) consultation on a potential regime in the country, which would involve adding 10p-20p to the price of all drinks and containers then refunding consumers when they return them to a collection point.
Scottish environment secretary Richard Lochhead announced in January that he had commissioned further research from ZWS on the programme after experts urged more impact assessment in an initial call for evidence.
Now Barr, which ended its own scheme last year, said: “On a small scale we could see people scavenging in bins for containers, as is the US experience.
“On a medium scale there is potential for local authority amenity centre looting.
“On a larger scale there is the very real possibility of cross-border trafficking of deposit-bearing containers.
“It costs about £400 to move a lorry-load of cans from England to Scotland. A single lorry could carry 160,000 cans or £32,000-worth of deposits.”
Lochhead discussed a possible UK-wide scheme with environment secretary Liz Truss in June, which would rule out the possibility of trafficking if implemented.
Many other industry figures responded to the consultation, which reflected on a feasibility study released by ZWS and Eunomia in May 2015.
The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac) also expressed concern, saying in its response that such a programme ”may not be the most efficient or effective policy instrument” to drive resource efficiency.
”Instead, Larac would like to see policy that maximises the material collected through existing systems, such as local authority kerbside collections, while channelling funding from producers to support such systems.
”Larac believes that this will yield high levels of beverage container recycling but also other materials that will have a much greater impact on recycling rates in Scotland.”
The British Plastics Federation and British Glass both backed the Packaging Recycling Group Scotland’s response, which said the scheme would ”increase costs, be inconvenient for consumers and penalise low-income families”.
Producer compliance scheme operator Valpak also suggested that the tonnage of packaging likely to be recovered by the programme would be ”significantly lower than estimated in the feasibility study”.
However, Friends of the Earth Scotland described the study as “comprehensive”, and said it “showed that there are no major legal or technical barriers to creating a Scottish scheme of deposits on bottles and cans, and that there would be positive economic benefits”.
Previous responses to ZWS’s study included requests for more information on potential retailer and manufacturer costs, impact on prices and the interaction with kerbside collection schemes.
Germany, Sweden and Norway already have such systems in place, as do parts of Canada, Australia and the US.
Barr’s own 110-year-old deposit return scheme for glass bottles, including Irn-Bru, closed last year after a reduction in customers using the scheme. The firm said its system to offer customers a cash exchange saw 90% of its bottles being returned to retailers in the early 1990s, but this more recently dropped to 50%.