Deposit return scheme to curb plastic waste

plastic, waste, government
29/03/2018 - 08:00
The government is set to introduce a deposit return scheme in England for single use drinks containers (whether plastic, glass or metal), subject to consultation later this year.

UK consumers use an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, but more than three billion are incinerated, sent to landfill or left to sully streets, countryside and the marine environment.

The consultation will look at the details of how a deposit return scheme would work, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates.

The government hopes to talk to devolved administrations about the scope for working together on this issue.

UKHospitality has warned the government not to increase costs or restrictions for hospitality businesses through any proposed deposit scheme and called on it to create an opt-out for business where drinks are sold on the premises. Any scheme, it says, must take into account the sector’s businesses that may be disproportionately hit by a cost for single-use packaging.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The hospitality [industry] recognises the challenge and is already playing an active role in providing solutions and is not underestimating the importance and cost implications.

“There is, however, a genuine worry that this scheme will simply increase costs for businesses while not providing the action required to tackle packaging waste.

“If the government is serious about tackling the problem of waste, it also needs to ensure that funds generated by the deposit scheme are ring-fenced to provide improved recycling facilities across the UK.”

This week's announcement is the latest move in the government crackdown on plastic, following the plastic microbeads ban and the 5p plastic bag charge. It sits alongside the 25-year environment plan commitment to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.

The consultation will take into account views from producers, suppliers and consumers to ensure that any system introduced works across the country.

The government is also introducing a package of wider reforms of the current packaging waste system, which will incentivise producers to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and to increase the amount of packaging they recycle.

Similar schemes already operate in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Germany. A deposit return scheme sees consumers pay an up-front deposit when they buy a drink, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, which is redeemed on return of the empty drink container.

Possible variants of a deposit return scheme include cash rewards for returning drinks containers without an upfront deposit, according to the Gov.UK website. Once a bottle is returned, businesses are then responsible for making sure they are effectively recycled – a move that has led to a 97% recycling rate in Germany.

Steve Malkin, founder of The Planet Mark™ sustainability certification programme, said the government's plan “sends all the right messages to people and business.”

He added: “For those businesses embracing sustainability – and there are many – this is the shot in the arm that will encourage them to do more good work way beyond this scheme.

“Recycling and returning waste so that it can become the raw materials for future products, and hence a revenue stream, is always uppermost in the minds of business leaders looking to make their companies more sustainable.

“We hope that this signals a more determined position from the UK government to grasp the opportunity of a more sustainable way of living and working.”

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