THE year was 1988. Hair was big. Shoulder pads were bigger. And regard for the environment was very, very small.
A 31-year-old Coca-Cola can washed up on Cramond beach near Edinburgh has ignited fresh calls for the speedy introduction of a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans.
The rusty old can, which features a promotion for the Seoul Olympics, was one of more than 400 items picked up at the beach by volunteers. Half the litter found was made from plastic, while 100 wet wipes were also unearthed tangled in seaweed.
Campaigners are also calling for clearer labelling on wipes to stop them being flushed down the toilet.
The clean-up was carried out by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and resulted in 86kg of rubbish being cleared from the beach.
MCS Scotland conservation officer Catherine Gemmell, who organised the event, said wet wipe numbers were regularly high at Cramond.
She added: “One of the most startling finds was a Coca-Cola can from 1988 supporting the Olympics, held that year in Seoul, South Korea.
“This really unusual find shows that when it comes to litter there is no ‘away’ and we need to ensure that anything we are using today is not being picked up by volunteers in 30 or more years’ time.”
“This can is the very reason that we’re calling on the Scottish Government to implement an ‘all in’ deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans.”
We might have come a long way since 1988, an era free from mobile phones, digital music and the internet. Unleaded petrol had been introduced in the UK only two years previously. By 1988 it was available in only 11% of filling stations. As we contemplate a future of electric cars, potentially driverless, then we do appear to have travelled a long way after all in the intervening years.
Alas, there was a blip in 2015. That’s when AG Barr, the last bastion of returnable bottles, finally put an end to the practice.
As kids back in the day, collecting ginger bottles was a lucrative source of cash. The enterprise funded many a 10-pence mixture and caused more than a few fillings. But little did we realise just how environmentally friendly we were all those years ago.
Plans to introduce a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans were included in the Scottish Government’s 2017/18 Programme for Government, with a public consultation on the initiative closed in September 2018. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham promised in January to “bring forward the next steps on designing our deposit return scheme shortly”.
One of the aims of the consultation was to help determine what range of materials – such as plastic, metal or glass glass – should be included. A decision on this will be announced at a later date.
The snapshot of detritus washed up on Cramond beach demonstrates that the scheme can’t come soon enough. It’s not quite a message in a bottle, but the communication in a 1988 Coca-Cola can is loud and clear.