Offering Scots cash for their trash could lead to a “crime spree” – according to Irn Bru manufacturers.
AG Barr have warned Scottish ministers that a possible new scheme, which would involve paying Scots to recycle their bottles, cans and cartons, could lead to scavenging, looting and fraud.
However, many environmentalists are supportive of the scheme.
Other countries currently use the deposit-and-return scheme, which means a levy is imposed when an item is sold but the buyer can claim a refund when they return the empty bottle.
In Germany, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Australia and America reverse vending machines for returns are also a common sight.
But there are concerns that if something similar were introduced to Scotland, there is the possibility of large-scale looting and even “cross-border trafficking” of recyclables.
The cash for trash scheme may feature in the SNP’s Holyrood election manifesto for May, despite concerns that the scope for fraud would be huge.
In a submission to a consultation by Zero Waste Scotland, AG Barr write: “On a small scale we could see people scavenging in bins for containers, as is the US experience.
“On a medium scale there is potential for local authority amenity centre looting.
“On a larger scale there is the very real possibility of cross-border trafficking of deposit-bearing containers.
“It costs about £400 to move a lorry-load of cans from England to Scotland. A single lorry could carry 160,000 cans or £32,000 of deposits.”
The company claims the deposit-and-return scheme could be seen as a form of tax, hitting those with already tight household budgets the hardest.
Coca-Cola Enterprises estimates that it could cost an extra £65 per household per year through lost deposits - roughly the equivalent of a weekly food shop.
Keep Scotland Beautiful, an environmental charity, said the investment required to roll out such a scheme, combined with no evidence to show that it would cut litter, means that it is not the right solution.
However, some environmentalists are supportive.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Deposit return systems work well in many countries and are very popular with the public.
“They also help create local jobs, reduce climate change emissions and boost recycling.
“Big businesses are squealing, just like they did on the plastic bag levy. Taking your own bags or paying for one at the till has become second nature, so much so that the retailers are pretending it was their idea.
“It will be the same with a deposit return system. We’ll wonder why we didn’t do it sooner.”
Richard Lochhead, cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and environment, said: “I have asked Zero Waste Scotland to undertake further work to look into the issues raised in our call for evidence on the potential for a deposit return scheme for Scotland.”