Defra has recently announced that a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) will be introduced in England for single use drinks containers, following a consultation.
The basic principal of the scheme will entail consumers paying an up-front deposit when buying a drink in a single use container - in other countries already running a DRS the deposit ranges in value from 8p to 22p, redeemed once the empty container is returned to be recycled.
A complex picture
Existing schemes have had a positive impact on the collection of single use containers, with Germany attaining an impressive 97% recycling rate, for example. In England the scheme is likely to cover glass, plastic bottles and cans made from both steel and aluminium, and the up-coming consultation will consider how a DRS would work alongside other measures to increase recycling rates.
It is a complex picture with concerns that a DRS could negatively impact existing kerbside collection systems, whilst having potential to greatly improve on-the-go recycling rates, which could lower the £700 million littering bill currently picked up by local authorities. Another concern is the capacity of domestic recycling infrastructure and the ability to reprocess any increase in collected materials, especially considering the recent restrictions to exported waste imposed by China.
Success depends on type of scheme chosen
Managing director James Piper commented “We welcome in principle any initiative aimed at improving UK recycling, however the real question now is whether the UK has the correct infrastructure - i.e capacity inside its recycling plants - to deal with the increase in glass, plastic and steel and aluminium cans that will be generated from such a scheme. “
“We don’t want to see a situation whereby millions more tonnes of plastic are collected but sit dormant in warehouses, or worse, outside exposed to the elements, because there is nowhere inside the UK to recycle them.”
“We agree with the position adopted by Defra’s own Voluntary and Economics Incentives Group, which suggests that the success of any deposit scheme will very much depend on the type chosen, that it needs to be well-designed and drawn up in consultation with businesses, in order to capture high quality material and provide a benefit.”
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