Whitmuir Pilots Innovative Recycling Scheme

Whitmuir the Organic Place is one of the first Scottish businesses to sign up to a new national pilot scheme, funded by Zero Waste Scotland, to help to boost local recycling amongst their customers.

The scheme, launched on Friday 1 March at Whitmuir Farm Shop by Christine Grahame MSP, unveiled a new Recycle and Reward machine which offers consumers an incentive for returning recyclable items. Whitmuir Farm Shop is putting a 10p deposit on every glass, plastic and aluminium drinks container which can be redeemed when the item is returned for recycling.

Deposit Return schemes such as this have increased recycling rates to 98.5% for plastic containers in Germany and 85% on bottles in South Australia, compared with an estimated recycling rate of 24% in Scotland.

Heather Anderson, co-owner of Whitmuir the Organic Place, explains that organic farming is all about sustainability, so working to increase recycling rates is key to the work they do. She said, “We do all we can to reduce waste – we sell fresh food with minimum packaging, we cook everything from fresh and we recycle all our boxes when we pack your messages– so this makes complete sense to us.

“All our drinks sold in glass bottles, PET (recyclable plastic) and aluminium containers have a special label which the till reads and shows on your receipt. When you return the container, the machine reads the label and issues a credit, which you can put towards your next bill or get back as cash. This applies to all our home deliveries as well. Simple as that.”

Miriam Adcock of Zero Waste Scotland, Christine Grahame, MSP, Heather Anderson and Pete Ritchie - owners of Whitmuir the Organic PlaceChristine Grahame MSP added, “The Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan aims to increase recycling rates in Scotland from 40 per cent to 70 per cent by 2025. We are delighted that Whitmuir is helping us achieve this target by running one of the two deposit return schemes being piloted in Scotland.  Whitmuir can pave the way for small, independent retailers to improve recycling.”

Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, launched the national Recycle and Reward scheme at IKEA on Thursday 21 February, when he said, “Years ago, we thought nothing of taking our empty glass bottles back to the shops with the added bonus of getting cash back in our pocket. Now, thanks to modern technology we are breathing new life into this traditional approach.

“Each year, around 22,000 tonnes of plastic drinks bottles alone go to landfill in Scotland. If that was separated for recycling it could be worth around £6 million to the economy and that’s why it’s so important that we help more people to recycle what they can.”

Zero Waste Scotland have invested about £900,000 on the pilot scheme, with each machine, such as the one at Whitmuir, costing £10,000.

Iain Gulland, Director, Zero Waste Scotland, said, “It’s vital that we consider fresh approaches to boosting recycling rates. Through this pilot, we want to assess the impact of this approach which has proved successful in Germany, South Australia and Scandinavia.  It’s important we change the way people view waste in Scotland and we’ll be looking at how incentivising these recycling schemes impacts on recycling rates and complements other schemes, including kerbside, recycling centres and banks.”

Assessments will measure public perception and acceptability, the tonnage of material captured and its quality, whether the material has been diverted from kerbside collections, bring sites or landfill, littering and, where appropriate, the scheme will measure increased footfall, visitors, use of facility, and visitor spend.

A survey at Whitmuir found that customers were quite happy to pay the extra 10p, knowing that they could get it back. In Germany, where the scheme is nationwide, and people can return any recyclable product anywhere, micro businesses have developed based on people, for example, collecting your empties after a party!

“Initially we’ll be in credit,” Heather explains, “but any profit that we make will go towards three schemes: a can crusher, a cardboard shredder to provide animal bedding and an oil filter so that cooking oil can be turned into biodiesel. We hope that eventually microbusinesses can be created around the recycling centre, as they are in Germany. We have to report monthly to Zero Waste and we’ll be keeping our cutomers informed of how it goes as well. ”

A further eight Recycle and Reward pilot schemes are set to be put in place across 14 locations in Scotland, including IKEA stores in Edinburgh and Glasgow; Dundee University; Network Rail; Cordia Services LLP at Glasgow Caledonian University; Heriot Watt University; North Ayrshire Council, South Ayrshire Council and the Hebridean Celtic Festival.


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Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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