Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans have welcomed the delay to the Bottle Deposit Return Scheme and are urging the Scottish Government to use this time to consider the implications it will have for visually impaired people.

The Bottle Deposit Return Scheme, which is used by many other countries to encourage recycling, will charge people a small deposit on certain types of containers, which will be given back to them when they return it to a recycling point. People return their items to a reverse vending machine where they scan their bottles to receive cash back.

The sight loss charities are concerned that people with vision impairment will not be able to take part in the scheme and will incur the increased costs with no way of getting their money back, thus increasing cost of living pressures further.

Craig Spalding, Chief Executive, Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, explains: “Although we support environmental initiatives like the Bottle Deposit Return Scheme, we are extremely worried that the rights of visually impaired people have not been taken into consideration when the scheme has been developed. We urge the Scottish Government to take this time to review several unacceptable accessibility issues.

“For many blind and partially sighted people online food shopping is key to being able to shop independently. This is also true for many older people. We are concerned that those unable or who find it challenging to physically go to a supermarket will not be able to participate in the return scheme and will bear a disproportionate cost on bottled items. We are aware that new regulations state that some large retailers will provide a vital takeback service. However, we are very concerned about recent reports of one large supermarket possibly cancelling online shopping deliveries to get out of offering a takeback service. If this is the case, it is likely other supermarkets will follow suit which will isolate more people with visual impairment from the scheme.

“For those who are able to shop in person, we are also concerned about how someone with visual impairment will be able to identify what bottles are included in the scheme and how will they be able to operate the reverse vending machine. Will they be required to scan the bottles manually? It is essential the codes are in large print and have a tactile marker to indicate where they are on the bottle. We feel it is a necessity that reverse vending machines should include audio instructions and large print on the screen. The test machines which are currently in some shops around the country have none of these unfortunately.” 

Spalding adds: “We have written to the Scottish Government raising our concerns and are currently awaiting a reply. As it stands just now, the Bottle Deposit Return Scheme just does not work for blind or partially sighted people.”

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