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Leave plastic milk bottles out of Scotland DRS, ministers told

Significant support exists for leaving rigid HDPE containers used for milk out of a deposit return scheme (DRS) in Scotland, official research has revealed.

More than a third of those responding to a Scottish Government consultation said the material should not form part of the proposed initiative. The proportion was even higher among individual responses compared with those from organisations.

Respondents argued that because milk is a staple food, an additional cost through a deposit would have ”a negative impact on public health and on reducing health inequalities”.

Other concerns include hygiene risks and the fact that milk bottles are usually consumed at home and are not very often littered. There is also a relatively high level of HDPE recycling without a DRS.

Some respondents who backed HDPE being included nevertheless said milk bottles should left out of the scheme. 

The problem of milk bottles has been recognised in other countries. A delegation from Lithuania, who visited the UK to speak about setting up a DRS, recommended leaving them out because of the smell. 

The research also found that the most popular level for the deposit to be fixed at was 15-20p, selected by 32% of respondents. Next was 20p, selected by a further 24%.

Nineteen respondents called for a deposit in excess of 50p while 31 suggested less than 10p.

A UK-wide DRS was preferred to a Scotland-only scheme on grounds including consistency, regulatory coherence, reduced complexity and better protection against fraud, the analysis of responses said. 

The UK Government this month launched its own consultation on a DRS for cans and bottles across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said an implementation advisory group would meet next week to provide expertise and advice on the implementation of a DRS in Scotland. 

“Earlier this week the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments set out their own plans for deposit return and, should their ambitions match our own, I would be happy to explore how our respective schemes might usefully align in the future. 

”At the same time, the very fact that the launch of that consultation coincides with publication of our analysis is a clear demonstration that we continue to lead the way in this area, and I am committed to ensuring this remains the case.” 

More than 150 organisations from across the public, private and community sectors gave their views on the consultation, which ran last summer. They were joined by more than 2,000 individuals. Answers received from a further 1,048 people using pre-printed postcards supplied by a campaign group were not included in the tables calculating responses to closed questions.

The Scottish Government said there was ”widespread agreement among both organisational and individual respondents that a well-run and appropriately targeted DRS could provide opportunities in relation to improving the environment, changing people’s attitudes to recycling and littering, and building the circular economy”.

Benefits identified included employment, retail footfall and material development.

Respondents said a DRS in Scotland should ”complement, rather than compete with, existing local authority kerbside schemes”, ministers found.

The Scottish Government report added that consultation answers showed the initiative ”should also take account of other relevant policies and initiatives both in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK”.

Cunningham said: “This analysis confirms that Scotland wants to see a well-run and appropriately targeted DRS. It is extremely welcome that the consultation signalled support for a model which is ambitious in scope and with a minimum deposit in excess of 15p. 

“Work continues apace to finalise our proposals for deposit return and bring forward the necessary legislation to support its introduction. An implementation advisory group will play a critical role as we translate our proposals into an efficient, operational solution.”

Zero Waste Scotland chief executive Iain Gulland said a DRS would “help to keep plastics and other single-use containers out of our waters and off our streets”.

“We are advising the Scottish Government to help them design the best possible scheme, reflecting the findings of this consultation and Scotland’s unique characteristics, while building on the experiences of countries that have already made a success of deposit return,” he said.

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