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Why oppose bottle deposit schemes?

Dominic Hogg

I am taken aback by the num­ber of people who have been queuing up to make known their reservations regarding deposit return schemes (DRS).

It is strange that so many organisations have sought to oppose this measure which contributes to mitigating two of the major environmental problems of our time: climate change and marine plastic pol­lution.

Granted that, on its own, it will not completely solve either, but the upside has often been lost amid a morass of rather self-serving objections.

The sort of circular economy (CE) I want see is not the one in which the plastics you throw away come back to you in the fish you buy. That ‘bad boomerang economy’ does not mag­ically disappear by funding researchers to explore a few of their nudge theories here and there.

Viewers of the BBC’s Blue Planet II are going to be asking supermarkets, councils, restaurants and manufacturers – frankly, everyone – what they are doing to address the mess we have created. Publicly opposing measures that help in this regard is an interesting position to adopt.

But, unsurprisingly, a grow­ing number of erstwhile oppo­nents and sceptics are now shifting their view and sup­porting the very measure they previously sought to oppose.

bottle deposit

The call for evidence launched recently by the Treasury regarding the poten­tial for charges and taxes to address the use of single-use plastics is a welcome sign.

Representatives of retail industry have drawn attention to the fact that taxpayers have sunk significant sums into the existing kerbside recycling services. It’s a good point.

In many other countries, it would have been funded directly by contributions from producers. In a more compre­hensive scheme, producers would not only fund the kerb­side recycling service in full, but pay for the clean-up of the litter related to consumption of the products and packaging.

The view from local authori­ties that they might lose revenue from kerbside services should be set in this context.

Apart from the fact that Eunomia’s research indicates what a partial view this is – there can be savings on litter clean-up costs and disposal, as well as possible benefits from reoptimising collection ser­vices – the costs should not be falling on councils.

It is also worth highlighting that, if a local authority suc­cessfully reduces consumption of plastic bottles of water through encouraging refilla­bles/use of water fountains, the effect on recycling services is effectively the same. So should we oppose such waste prevention measures?

The vision that has been pro­jected until now has been the same blurred one that you get when you peer through the plastic soup that so neatly describes a worrying propor­tion of our oceans.

It is time to clean up our act. Implementing measures such as DRS does not impede a broader perspective.

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