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Deposit return scheme in the UK: industry reaction

Environment secretary Michael Gove has drawn a cautious response from the industry and other interested bodies with his announcement of a planned deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks bottles.

His proposals have sparked alarm that they could make local authority collections unviable by diverting bottles from household recycling. But many within the industry are keen on a DRS, as long as it works well with the UK’s existing recycling regimes.

Here are some of the reactions.

Carole Taylor, chair of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac): “Larac supports full producer responsibility and DRS could be a step in that direction. The evidence so far for the UK has not shown how a general DRS can be undertaken without cannibalising council kerbside material. Local authorities provide comprehensive collection schemes for the materials that a DRS would target, and our first step should be to put funds into these from producers to increase kerbside performance even further. If the public really have an appetite for DRS then it needs to be one that targets ‘on the go’ material and helps address the litter problem that local authorities spend £700m each year dealing with. Larac believes that the option of not having a DRS has to be a proper part of the consultation process.”

Colin Church, chief executive of the Chartered Institution for Wastes Management: “Any new schemes or taxes must be considered and implemented as part of a wider, coherent set of policies to deliver the ambitions on zero avoidable waste and greater resource productivity that have been expressed in the last few months.There also continues to be concern about the impact on local authority collections which must be explored more fully.”

Simon Ellin, chief executive, the Recycling Association: “A deposit return scheme for plastics bottles, glass bottles and cans is likely to lead to a purer stream of material to recycle. However, we must be careful we do not throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to understand what this will mean for the entire domestic recycling system. For example, how will local authorities replace what is a valuable revenue stream for them and could this make collections of other material such as cardboard and paper uneconomic for local authorities? Could this then make the quality of other material worse if collection systems cannot be properly funded?”

Jacob Hayler executive director, Environmental Service’s Association: “The biggest priority for the recycling industry remains greater support for end markets for recycled materials. There is no point recovering all this material if there is nowhere for it to go, and particular consideration is needed for material left to be collected at the kerbside if a DRS system is introduced.”

Roseanna Cunningham, environment secretary, Scottish Government: “I am proud that Scotland was the first part of the UK to commit to introduce a deposit return scheme and pleased to learn the UK Government will now follow our lead.”

Viridor: “A UK-wide scheme, rather than separate schemes introduced by the devolved administrations, offers the greatest potential benefits and convenience for customers. The success of a DRS will depend on the design and competitiveness of the chosen scheme - the scope of the materials to be included and how the material collected at retail points is then made available to the recycling and reprocessing markets.”

Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice-president, Veolia UK & Ireland: “We would like to see manufacturers awarded incentives for including a significant percentage of recycled content in their product. We view waste material as a vital commodity, something to harness and repurpose into new product. When manufacturers start using a considerable amount of recycled content in their products, this will be the turning of the tides we’ve all been waiting for.”

David Wilson, managing director, Vanden Recycling UK: “We currently have very good recycling collections for bottles from homes, and DRS should help to improve the ability of consumers to recycle their drinks bottles when out and about. It should also help litter control and aid an increase in recycling rates of bottles.”

Robert Logan, managing director, WCRS: “With the issue highlighted on the recent Blue Planet II television programme and with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch now thought to contain 79,000 tonnes of waste, the Government announcement has been well timed for maximum publicity, which can only be a good thing.”

Rick Hindley, executive director, Alupro: “We welcome any measure that effectively increases recycling and reduces litter. Aluminium packaging is already widely recycled; 70% of beverage cans are currently recycled, and independent research shows that in 12 years the existing collection infrastructure will deliver a 90% recycling rate for all aluminium packaging*.

James Piper, managing director, Ecosurety: “The real question is whether the UK has the correct infrastructure - capacity inside its recycling plants - to deal with the increase in glass, plastic and steel and aluminium cans that will be generated from such a scheme. We don’t want to see a situation whereby millions more tonnes of plastic are collected but sit dormant in warehouses, or worse, outside exposed to the elements.”

Michelle Carvell, director Lorax Compliance: “A number of firms have already investigated how they could introduce plastic bottle deposit return schemes into their business model.We believe the government’s launch represents the changing face of environmental compliance, and that this scheme signifies the first of many that could be formed in response to business and consumer demand.”

Samantha Harding, litter programme director, the Campaign to Protect Rural England: “What’s significant is that producers will now pay the full costs of their packaging, reducing the burden on the taxpayer and setting a strong precedent for other schemes where the polluter pays. This really is a bold and exciting step by the Government.”

Steve White, software business development manager, Yotta: Technology will play a key role in making sure the scheme remains effective. Placing sensors in the reverse vending machines, underground bin stores or however the returned items are collected will ensure collections are made on an optimal basis and is key. This IoT technology can then play into a wider connected network, not just across the collections.”


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