Local authorities could save up to £35m a year if a deposit refund system (DRS) for drinks containers is introduced in England, according to campaign group Keep Britain Tidy (KBT).
Some councils have expressed fears that a DRS would cut their recycling revenue, as residents would favour such schemes rather than putting out bottles and cans for kerbside collections.
But KBT says analysis of data across eight typical councils found that individual authorities could make savings elsewhere, such as lower costs in dealing with litter, of between £60,000 and £500,000.
The research in a report by Eunomia was commissioned by a consortium including KBT, the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage and Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
While accepting that fewer items in the kerbside collections would hit revenue, the report found that this would be outweighed by savings from collecting and sorting fewer containers, reduced levels of littering and reduced landfill charges.
Allison Ogden-Newton, KBT chief executive, said: “There is no doubt that introducing a DRS would reduce littering in this country but, until now, there has been a concern it would have a negative impact on cash-strapped councils. This report shows that in fact a DRS would create savings for local government.”
Samantha Harding, litter programme director at CPRE, said: “There are no longer any valid arguments that DRS doesn’t work and the environmental case is crystal clear. For our coasts and countryside, the cost of not taking action will be far greater than any incurred by the parts of industry that are trying to block this.
“[Environment secretary] Michael Gove can now build on the success of the Government’s bag charge and the ban on microbeads by confirming that England will have a deposit system.”
Evidence from other countries, including the US, Norway and Germany, was quoted to show that a simple deposit on plastic bottles and cans can raise collection rates above 90% and reduce littering.