Deposit scheme for recycling needs UK-wide consistency to work, MPs warn
Deposit return schemes (DRS) - programmes designed to encourage consumers to return drinks bottles and cans for recycling - should be consistent across the four nations of the UK to encourage greater take up of the schemes, a group of MPs has advised.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which includes Green Party MP Caroline Lucas among its ranks, also said that cartons should be included within the scheme as the UK has existing capacity for them to be properly recycled and repurposed.
Failure to include cartons from the outset would result in greater costs should the material be added at a later stage, it added.
The introduction of a DRS has been planned since 2018 as a way to reduce litter and boost recycling. Initially, it was due for launch in 2023, but a new consultation was launched in March for a scheme to be introduced in late 2024 at the earliest and to “explore what the continued appetite is for a deposit return scheme in a ‘post-Covid’ context”.
The EAC also heard evidence that including glass in the deposit return scheme could enhance recycling rates further, with 18 per cent of wasted containers in the UK in 2019 being glass, despite good kerbside collection.
However, this is dependent on glass being compacted (rather than crushed) and ensuring safety and space concerns for small retailers are considered.
EAC Chairman, Philip Dunne MP, said: “Over recent years the environmental impact of single-use packaging has been brought into focus. Yet despite growing awareness, and increased rates of recycling, in 2019 Brits still wasted eight billion drinks containers.
“This is not just a major wasted resource, but a huge source of litter, polluting our streets, roadsides, rivers and beaches. A deposit return scheme can increase current rates of recycling, incentivising people to get money back on their single-use containers.
“It was disappointing that the government delayed the introduction of a DRS to 2024 and it is critical that this consultation helps finalise design of the scheme so it is not delayed any more. It is absolutely right for producers to become responsible for the whole lifecycle of their packaging, but it must be fair across sectors.
“That is why the government must ensure the DRS roll-out includes all materials and allows the Deposit Management Organisation to determine the fee structure across sectors.”
A spokesperson for the environment department said: “We are absolutely committed to delivering a deposit return scheme as quickly and effectively as possible and we plan to lay out next steps later this year following our consultation.”
Defra said the DRS would require coordination across the UK government, devolved administrations and key industry stakeholders, as well as new legislation, the appointment of new organisations to manage the scheme and large-scale changes to the sector.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.