Suez has backed calls for a UK-wide plastic bottle deposit return scheme, while others in the industry have warned against one.
Such a regime has been suggested by the Scottish Government, which 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.
Now the potential for a UK-wide scheme has gained some mainstream media attention.
The Daily Mail, which is campaining for a scheme, reported this week that a “Government insider” had said such a scheme would be rejected by ministers due to “significant uncertainties” over evidence that it could reduce litter and boost recycling.
Suez UK chief executive David Palmer-Jones has backed the idea.
He said: “Investing in a UK-wide deposit scheme for plastic bottles makes not just environmental sense but, importantly, economic sense too – putting pounds in the pockets of both households and business through reduced waste disposal costs and reduced need to buy virgin raw materials.
“For many years I lived and worked in Sweden, which has long had similar bottle deposit schemes in place, so have seen first-hand just how effective these systems can be at improving recycling and how well they can be embraced by society.”
He said it was one of the measures the sector had been lobbying to be included in the Government’s industrial strategy.
“At the moment, the Government seems to be quick to rule out the introduction of various schemes such as this, but we have yet to see much in the way of positive alternative direction from them in addressing the problems we face with both flatlining recycling rates and litter,” he added.
Others in the industry, including the Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment (Incpen) and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac), have expressed concern over a potential regime.
On social media this week On-Pack Recycling Label said a scheme would in fact “lead to an overall reduction in recycling”.
It added: “Litter is a problem but shouldn’t be solved by cannibalising council collections.”
Larac agreed, saying: “Instead of deposits, push new funds into the existing efficient collections to increase recycling.”
And incoming Incpen chief executive Paul Vanston posted: “Councils’ collections are the heart of household recycling. Energy and focus needs to support kerbside.”
In a statement last year, Incpen said a bottle deposit scheme would undermine recycling by diverting material into a separate system that would need its own collection vehicles on the roads.