Keep glass out of deposit return scheme to cut carbon say experts

Claims about the carbon-saving benefits of including glass in the Scottish recycling Deposit Return Scheme are being disputed

Claims about the carbon-saving benefits of including glass in the Scottish recycling Deposit Return Scheme are being disputed by waste and drinks industry experts.

Reducing CO₂emissions has been cited by Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS), the Scottish Government’s delivery body for the scheme, as a main argument for including glass. However, in a paper¹ published today, leading glass experts say these figures are drastically overstated and that in a worse-case scenario, inclusion of glass in the scheme could lead to an actual increase in emissions.

Dave Dalton, CEO of British Glass, the glass industry trade body comments: “We have been unable to obtain verification of the 1.3m tonnes of CO₂ that ZWS claim will be saved over 25 years – or 52,000 tonnes of CO₂ per year - by including glass in the scheme. Our in-depth modelling of different scenarios gives a very different picture. At best, including glass will save less than 0.25m tonnes over 25 years or around 9,300 tonnes per year, making the Scottish Government estimates some 500% wide of the mark.”

British Glass and an extensive alliance of waste and drinks industry experts say that including glass in the DRS is counterproductive. Compelling evidence from abroad² shows that including glass also leads to more unintended environmental and social consequences. “We support a scheme that significantly increases recycling and the reuse of resources, but under the existing plans, which include glass, this is not the case” says Dalton.

Those consequences, which include brands switching to plastic packaging to avoid the higher costs of glass associated with deposit return, have led some countries such as France³ to scrap plans for a similar scheme entirely.

Dalton points to the forthcoming UK-wide polluter pays scheme (known as Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR) as the way forward for glass. Dalton says that this is a much better way to collect more glass and reduce emissions: “The Polluter Pays scheme is already in the pipeline and offers greater savings on emissions for glass compared with the deposit return scheme. Due to technical issues, the deposit return system can’t separate out and collect more clear glass, whereas the EPR can. British Glass calculates that an EPR will save nearly double the CO₂ emissions and deliver a higher recycling rate at a fraction of the cost.”  

British Glass projections show a best-case annual CO₂ saving in Scotland of nearly double that with EPR than possible with a deposit return scheme, with around 17,000 tonnes saved with EPR vs 9,335 tonnes of CO₂ saved if glass is included in the deposit return scheme.

Dalton added:

“We are committed to working with the Scottish Government to achieve our common goal – lower emissions and increased recycling. That’s why we will continue to urge Zero Waste Scotland to rethink their position based on the evidence that shows EPR is a more practical and cost-effective way forward for glass”.

Notes for Editors

  1. Proposals for improving glass recycling in Scotland

  2. Recycling DRS in Scotland, Oakdene Hollins, September 2019,  
  3. The Senate opposes the deposit of plastic bottles, Les Echoes, September 2019,