Can deposit scheme recycling reduce packaging pollution?

Summer is now upon us and with that comes thoughts of barbeques, beach trips, and refreshing drinks being cracked open on those warm days. 

Before you guzzle down that cool beverage however, have you stopped to think about the impact of how you dispose of the single-use bottle or can it’s in?

A rising tide of drink packaging waste

In September of last year, during the Great British Beach Clean, volunteers found a stifling 3,300 pieces of litter per kilometre of beach. This is a 34% increase on the amount of litter from the previous year. The Marine Conservation Society found in its recent annual survey that there has been a 43% increase in the number of plastic bottles and a 29% rise in the number of metal drinks cans found on beaches.

The scope of this issue is substantial and the impacts on marine and coastal life irrevocable. Something must be done to increase collection of these drink containers before they become lost waste in our environment. If consumers are not ensuring their bottles and cans are disposed of properly then how can they be incentivised to do so?

It pays to recycle

In the U.K. there once was a time when you could return that bottle or can to a retailer and receive a refund on the deposit you paid for it at the time of purchase. These laws have since been phased out, but many other countries are still implementing them with much success.

The U.S. holds some shining examples of container deposit legislation done correctly. It has “bottle bills” enacted in 10 states and has seen a great increase in the recycling rates in those states as a result. In 2013 the Container Recycling Institute reported a comparison of the recycling rates between states that have deposit laws enacted and those that haven't.

There is a significant difference in the collection rates in states that gives the consumer an incentive to return the container after use, and those that offer no incentive at all. This study notes that if a deposit were placed on all beverage containers in the U.S., an impressive 75% recycling rate would be achieved across the board. This graph from the ‘2013 bottled up report clearly illustrates the difference.


 Having a container deposit scheme in the U.K. could increase the collection rates of many widely recycled materials. This increase in collections could greatly aid us in meeting the rigorous E.U. recycling targets. Not to mention more recyclable material would flow through the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) market, increasing the supply available to producers. And, of course, the invaluable long-term effects of protecting the ecosystems that surround us. It seems like the obvious route to take, so what’s stopping us?

If you would like to discuss your packaging compliance needs please contact our team of specialists on 0845 094 2228 or email info@ecosurety.com

Abigail Warren

Head of Client Services

Abigail joined Ecosurety in 2015 and is now Client services manager, ensuring our team provide valuable support to our clients and look for additional value we can add beyond compliance. She graduated in 2014 with a BSc in Environmental Studies from Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. Her degree is a reflection of her passion for environmental issues, which were evoked while growing up surrounded by the beautiful natural landscape of New England.

Written by Abigail Warren Published 27/05/2016 Topics Compliance

Useful links

Ecosurety funded mobile e-waste project releases blueprint impact report

Ecosurety's Exploration Fund initiative, Fixy, has published its 2023 Impact Report, outlining the project's success in Somerset and how the initiative could continue to develop in new areas.


Government publish updates to ‘Simpler Recycling’ scheme

On 9 May 2024, the government published two sets of responses to the Simpler Recycling scheme policy, further outlining their decision-making. 


Deposit Return Scheme

The DRS is set to be implemented in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in 2027. All producers of in-scope drink containers will be required to meet a collection target set by government. Are you affected?


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