deposit returns scheme

UK to bring in deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and drink cans from 2025

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The UK government has said it will introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and drink cans in a bid to cut the amount that is littered by 85 per cent.

The scheme will cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland and is set to be introduced in 2025. Scotland already brought in legislation in 2020 for its own deposit returns scheme, which will see consumers paying a 20p deposit for every bottle or can from August this year.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said the new legislation follows “extensive work with industry” to prepare them for the necessary changes including setting up infrastructure and amending labelling.

The introduction of a DRS has been planned since 2018 and was initially due to be launched in 2023, but this was delayed until late 2024 and now 2025.

The scheme would include special machines, known as reverse vending machines, and designated sites where people can return their bottles and receive their cash back. In most cases it would be the retailers who sell drinks covered by the scheme who would host a return point.

Every year UK consumers go through an estimated around 14 billion plastic drinks bottles and nine billion drinks cans, many of which are littered or condemned to landfill.

Campaigners have urged the government to reconsider the exclusion of glass from the scheme. Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, said: “We are set to disincentivise consumer recycling of what would otherwise be perfectly recyclable containers like glass bottles.

“An all-in deposit return scheme across all four nations of the UK is the only way we will radically reduce our dependence on natural resources. We cannot continue to ignore the UK’s chronically low levels of glass recycling. We need urgent systems change that do not create perverse incentives in the market and leave our environment open to perpetual degradation.”

Similar schemes have been introduced internationally with success, with countries like Germany, Finland and Norway seeing recycling rates above 90 per cent. Current recycling rates for drinks containers in the UK sit at around 70 per cent, with a target to collect over 85 per cent once the scheme is up and running.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “We want to support people who want to do the right thing to help stop damaging plastics polluting our green spaces or floating in our oceans and rivers.

“That is why we are moving ahead using our powers from our landmark Environment Act to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers.

“This will provide a simple and effective system across the country that helps people reduce litter and recycle more easily, even when on the move.”

The government is set to create an independent, industry-led Deposit Management Organisation, which will be tasked with running the scheme and setting the amount for the refundable deposit.

Last week the government announced that a ban on single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, expanded and extruded polystyrene food and drinks containers, including cups, will be introduced in England from October 2023.

This follows a ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, and restrictions on the supply of single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds.

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