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Coca-Cola sets out deposit return scheme criteria

Coca-Cola has set out how it will judge whether a deposit return scheme (DRS) is “well-designed”, ahead of an expected trial in England.

Nick Brown, head of sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners, pictured, was giving evidence at Westminster to MPs on the Environment Audit Committee.

He said: ”We have seen that other countries which have a deposit scheme have improved recovery rates of packaging and reduced littering, which is important to us. 

”We understand that things need to change both with household waste collection and packaging on-the-go. We think a deposit scheme can work in that context.”

Committee chair Mary Creagh suggested that Coca-Cola was getting cold feet but Brown denied this was so: “Any scheme needs to be underpinned with legislation. It needs careful thought. The scheme has to be easy as possible for consumers to do the right thing. No groups can be disadvantaged.”

Caroline Lucas suggested small retailers would face difficulties in finding space in stores for the scheme. An opt-in element to the scheme for certain retailers was floated.

Environment secretary Michael Gove has indicated that the Government is considering as DRS while Scotland is set to introduce its own scheme. A report from Eumonia for Keep Britain Tidy claimed that English councils would benefit by £35m from a DRS.

Two witnesses to the committee conceded that a DRS would hit local authorities’ kerbside collections. Sue Kinsey, senior pollution policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society, and Chris Sherrington, head of environmental policy and economics at Eunomia, agreed that material values would decline.

But both claimed that while local authorities would lose income, due to the reduced number of cans and plastic bottles to sell to recyclers, savings could be made from having fewer containers to collect and sort, as well as reduced levels of littering.

The chief executive of Incpen Paul Vanston responded to a Eunomia report which claimed councils could save money through a DRS.

He said: “Experience in councils’ recycling and waste services has repeatedly shown that the figures in one council can rarely be extrapolated with a high degree of certainty to the next-door council, let alone more widely.

“Whilst the effort by Eunomia colleagues to try and tackle the challenge is respected, the sheer levels of differences across councils mean figures are subject to high degrees of reasonable doubts. Such issues need to be explored objectively in governments’ Impacts Assessments on all the options.”

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