Wild Lives: Scotland’s Got the Bottle


Hello! I’ve not forgotten about you. Life is just pretty crazy as usual! Thanks for checking in – I really appreciate it!

Today is a good day. I learned that, thanks to organisations like Have You Got The Bottle and Zero Waste Scotland, my home and heartland, is taking a brilliant step forward to promoting a more considered & eco-friendly lifestyle. The Scottish Government has announced plans to start a bottle & can deposit scheme. It’s great news and something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Since we moved to Frankfurt earlier this year, we learned very quickly that Germans take their recycling seriously. We have FIVE different bins for sorting, recycling and composting our wares and it’s excellent. It really makes us think about how to best to recycle but, more importantly, how to reduce our waste in the first place.

The bottle scheme here in Germany simply makes sense. When you buy a drink you pay not only for the drink itself, but in the majority of cases, you also pay a deposit for the vessel it comes in. This applies to supermarkets, pubs, festivals and even vending machines. Once you have your drink and vessel, it’s up to you what you do next… dispose of it in a bin that sends it to landfill, leave it for someone else to clean up after you or return it to the vendor to be reused.

Only the latter gives you a return on your money.

All over Frankfurt are “bottle deposit banks” which happily accept your drink container and reward you with a voucher for money off your next shop. Essentially, the rent for the vessel is repaid. At festivals and pubs you can expect to be given a token for each glass or bottle and when you return both, you will get your deposit returned.

Tokens for Vessels
Drinks containers require deposits and come with tokens to encourage people to return them.

The result?

An incentive to be environmentally friendly AND clean up after yourself. There’s barely a piece of rubbish in sight at any of Frankfurt’s many summer festivals.

I wish I could say the same for Scotland’s streets.

I know what you’re thinking, surely the destruction of our only planet is incentive enough for this kind of environmentally friendly behaviour??  For me, that’s a no-brainer, but alas for many, it seems a monetary incentive is more than necessary.

And for everyone complaining that it’s a “nanny state” and we shouldn’t be wasting our time with such schemes. There are two things worth remembering…

Firstly, you still have the choice not to take part. If you want to throw away the bottles and cans then you still can. I, and many others will disagree with your behaviour all the same. The only difference is, the waste now hits your pocket directly. It’s still up to you though…

Secondly, this isn’t the first time Scotland has had a bottle deposit scheme. In fact, Scotland were once the leaders in the UK for this kind of thing and started this as far back as the 1800’s! Back then, all juice came in glass bottles and the scheme worked as a great way to get people to return bottles in good condition for reuse.  For me, the fizzy “juice” company Barr is the one that instantly comes to mind -their 1l glass bottles had a 20-30p premium on them and many a child of the 80’s (and years and years before!) spent hours scavenging the streets to find these bottled treasures so we could exchange them at the ice-cream van for a 20p mixture of penny-sweets.  It was the introduction of plastic bottles and cans which meant drinks manufacturers moved away from the system and a new deposit scheme was required to replace it.

And now we have one! One that works well in other countries around the world including Germany, Canada and Norway to name a few.

So as far as I’m concerned – “HOORAY!” for Scotland’s Bottle Deposit scheme. And here’s to any future efforts to encourage people to look after our planets. Long may they continue!

Find out more about the deposit scheme here.


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