Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Why Scotland should do it like the Swedes

Plastic bottles Sea Champion Andrea found on a remote beach on Harris in the Outer Hebrides

Sea Champion Andrea is a Swede living and studying in beautiful Scotland. Here she tells us about how the bottle deposit scheme back home is working.

I love the Scottish nature especially the coasts, where I hate to see how much litter there is. I joined MCS as a Sea Champion volunteer earlier this year and have so far been to beach cleans and to help deliver education workshops in schools.

Living in Scotland is in many ways very different from my home country. In Sweden we may not have the impressive castles, great beers or awesome ceilidhs for example. One thing we do have though is our famous deposit return system, something that is still missing in Scotland. Because of this system, bringing all your bottles and cans back to the store and getting money for it is a very natural part of life for anyone growing up in Sweden it is so normal that we even have a verb for it – “Panta”.

When living in a country with a deposit return system, recycling is always on your mind without particular effort. If you’re out and about drinking something in a bottle or can, you will probably put it in your bag and bring it home to the collection. It also becomes natural that if you are having a party, you make sure everyone leaves their bottles and you could collect enough to pay for next day’s brunch!

If the bottle does not make it to the recycling in the first pace, it can even have a second chance - it’s not rare to see people searching the bins in the park for bottles. I have even heard rumours about people that pay their whole rent with what that they pick up around town!

A bottle return station in Sweden

Business, offices, events and organisations also consume a large number of plastic bottles. I have been working in restaurants and bars in both Sweden and Scotland and have seen a massive difference in how recycling is prioritised in the two countries. I found that in Sweden, where money can be saved, recycling happened quite naturally, while it is a lower priority here in Scotland.

The deposit return system is also useful for the community, when for example organisations or schools collect bottles to raise money for their activities and trips. In a big collection competition last year, 13 million bottles and cans were collected by sports organisations from all corners Sweden.

Statistics has shown that putting a value to the bottles can truly change people’s behaviour. The success is quite clear, in 2014, 82,7% of all PET bottles were brought back and recycled in Sweden and the recycling rates for other materials are also high. I also could imagine that the deposit return system could make a huge difference here in Scotland because of how much the plastic bag use decreased when the 5p charge was added.

I have recently been on my first trip to the Outer Hebrides, a really amazing part of the world. Even in such a remote and pristine place, I found that many beaches were still full of plastic. It is very clear that marine litter is a problem all over Scotland and the amount of plastic is increasing according to the data collected during MCS’s many years of beach cleans. It is also clear that plastic bottles are a significant part of the problem and that the deposit return system is an effective way of doing something about it.

During my 25 years as a Swede, I have not had any negative experiences with the deposit return system, and the positive effects are so many. I hope that Scotland will soon join with the Swedes, taking a step towards being a more sustainable country with less plastic litter on its very special and beautiful coasts.

Please show your support for putting in place a Deposit Return System in Scotland by following the Have You Got the Bottle campaign on facebook and on twitter @yougotthebottle.

Have you got the bottle?

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