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Coca-Cola U-turn backs deposit return trial

Coca-Cola Great Britain (CCGB) has confirmed an about-turn to support the trial of a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers in Scotland.

A statement from the drinks giant said it had surveyed customer opinion and “the time is right” – just a month after Greenpeace leaked an internal CCGB document saying the company would “fight back” against DRS.

MRW understands that, last month, senior CCGB executives met representatives from across the UK waste sector, several of whom argued that a DRS for plastic bottles made environmental and economic sense, was effective at improving recycling and could be embraced by the wider society.

On 17 February, Suez UK chief executive David Palmer-Jones backed the concept, which in Scotland would involve adding 10p-20p to the price of all drinks and containers, with refunds for consumers when they return them to a collection point.

Richard Lochhead, as environment secretary in the Scottish Government in 2015, had asked Zero Waste Scotland to investigate a DRS.

He welcomed the policy switch in a tweet: “CCGB now backing Scots deposit & return scheme – big turnaround & massive boost for campaign.”

Lochhead told Holyrood magazine: “There is no doubt this is very significant and will inject fresh momentum and more credibility into the case for such a scheme to help boost recycling and tackle litter. I am sure this development will reverberate far and wide.

”I have no doubt the Scottish Government, and governments in other countries, will sit up and take notice.”

At the time of the Lochhead initiative, Packaging Recycling Group Scotland, which is supported by Coca-Cola, had said: “We do not support the introduction of a deposit return system in Scotland and recommend alternative proposals to promote recycling, reduce waste and tackle litter, which we believe will be more effective.”

CCGB said the new move was part of a wider review of its packaging strategy to be unveiled later in the year.

It has carried out consultations with “expert organisations, NGOs and policy-makers, as well as talking to and listening to our consumers to understand what they think about these issues”.

The company has promised to increase the amount of recycled and renewable material in its plastic bottles from 25% to 40% by 2020. Since 2012, all bottles and cans have been 100% recyclable.

The CCGB statement said: “Deposit return schemes have been a big part of these discussions as more people are looking for ways to increase recycling rates. We’ve asked some of our consumers what they think, too, and 63% of the people we asked support the introduction of a deposit scheme in the UK and 51% say they would be more likely to recycle as a result.

”So while our review is still ongoing, it is clear to us that the time is right to trial a well-designed DRS for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are underway already.”

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