The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac) has said savings outlined in a Eunomia report on deposit return schemes (DRS) are “unlikely to be achieved” and that investment should instead be put into kerbside collections.
The Eunomia report, which was commissioned by Keep Britain Tidy (KBT), said a DRS for drinks containers could save local authorities up to £35m, mainly through reduced collections, less sorting at MRFs and lower littering rates.
But Larac questioned the report’s findings as they were based an examination of just four councils, and said it did not prove DRS was suitable for the UK.
Larac said the money required to set up DRS infrastructure would be “better spent on existing collection systems and give a better increase in the overall recycling rate”.
Larac chair Andrew Bird said: “The headline savings coming from the modelling in this report are unlikely to be achieved to the levels stated in the real world.
“Larac believes producer responsibility should be extended in the UK but in the case of packaging and in particular beverage containers, through the robust and consistent collection services provided by local authorities and their partners from the private waste industry.
“Investment in on-the-go recycling infrastructure and communications could be a much more meaningful way of producers really helping to make a difference and cut local authority costs.”
Speaking at the launch of the KBT report at the House of Commons, Eunomia chairman Dominic Hogg said the effect on local authorities from a DRS would be the same as from waste prevention initiatives.
Suez technical development director Stuart Hayward-Higham also attended the event. He said Suez backed DRS, but unless it was embedded in a wider strategy it could lead to “unintended consequences”.
He said a poorly set-up system could end up with people scavenging bins.
“Badly done, you could well have negative impacts on local authority collections. That’s not going to help the process of adoption,” he added.
The Eunomia report assumed that a DRS in the UK would achieve 90% recycling level, based on systems set up across Europe.
But plastic recycling campaigner Recoup said comparing the UK to other EU countries was like comparing “apples and oranges”.
“Where high collection rates exist for plastic drinks bottles there is generally a lower overall collection rate for plastic packaging, with far lower or no recycling rates for non-drinks bottles and plastic pots, tubs and trays,” it said.
“Valpak recently published data that reports a 74% collection rate for drinks bottles consumed in the household stream in the UK, and this provides evidence that any future direction of improving plastics packaging collection rates needs careful cost-benefit analysis.”
Defra recently launched a consultation on setting up a DRS in England after receiving the backing of environment secretary Michael Gove.
Conservative MP Victoria Prentis, who chaired the report launch, said organisations were responding within a short consulatation period.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England will publish a report examining the effect of DRS on retailers before the end of the month.