MANY of us have fond memories of taking back our juice bottles to the local shop as kids and it was fun to get some change to spend.

Later as a student, I helped run a can recycling scheme. It was dirty work emptying bins and crushing cans, but we made a tidy sum for charities and were amazed at the volumes coming in.

Over the years recycling targets from Europe have forced councils to bring in household recycling schemes. The days of putting all our rubbish in a festering hole in the ground is coming to an end, but the volumes of waste show little sign of going down.

My own household collection bin for plastic and cans is a heap of jumbled material, much of it low grade and low value for processors.

Walking around my community I continue to see plastic bottles and cans simply littered, apparently worth nothing to nobody.

It’s time we got some of the value back into recycling, while driving the rate up further and creating strong incentives not to litter.

I’ve just come back from a study visit to Oslo where a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans is thriving.

A deposit is paid by the consumer, which they then get back from the shop when the bottle or can is returned.

Smaller shops fill bags with the empties, while bigger retailers have a reverse vending machine where bottles and cans are fed in. There is no mess or fuss and bags get collected by the scheme operator every couple of days.

At the operators’ plant the bags are opened and the contents sorted and scanned. They then go for recycling and end up as new bottles and cans to be used again.

The system works well because the Norwegians have a tax on packaging paid by the producers. It has forced industry to come up with a return system that is cheaper to run than paying the tax.

It’s also saving councils money as they no longer need to collect materials that are difficult to sort through. Recycle rates for bottles and cans are going up and it’s rare to see them ending up as litter.

I’ve been arguing for a similar scheme in Scotland for years and am pleased the Scottish Government is now consulting on introducing one.

It has to be ambitious though, capturing as many types of drinks packaging as feasible with a strong financial incentive on industry.

All retailers should be included to make it work well. There is a big advantage for them in that the scheme will bring customers in through the door with their empties, while the returned deposit will often get spent before customers leave.

With a simple Norwegian style scheme there is even space for charities to collect their own cans and bottles just as I did years ago, but without the hassle.

It’s time Scotland got an ambitious system in place that puts some of that value and fun back into recycling again.