Waste contractor Suez has thrown its weight behind local authority concerns that a deposit return scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles would damage the viability of doorstep collections.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said today that he would introduce a scheme covering drinks containers of all kinds later this year.
Suez said research it commissioned showed the public would support such a scheme, but said it should focus only on containers used on-the-go rather than include the larger bottles people would normally use at home.
Suez said the scheme should cover only plastic PET bottles and aluminium cans smaller than 0.7 litres, with a refundable deposit of 10p per container.
Suez said the DRS should be owned by manufacturers, but provide opportunities for local authorities to generate revenue by operating redemption points and providing local logistics, because reverse vending machines alone would be insufficient to make the scheme work.
There are fears that a DRS could lose money for councils because more valuable materials like plastic and aluminium could be cannibalised from household collections.
Suez called for a DRS for bottles to be part of a wider system of extended producer responsibility.
David Palmer-Jones (pictured), chief executive of Suez Recycling and Recovery UK, said: “We believe bringing manufacturers and consumers together under a DRS will help the nation to recycle more bottles and cans, at the same time as reducing litter and improving the cleanliness and quality of materials returned to manufacturers.
“People struggle to recycle while on-the-go, and fewer than half of us are likely to hang on to bottles or cans long enough to recycle when we get home – instead opting to throw them in a public rubbish bin, or worse.”
Palmer-Jones said his firm’s calculations suggested that more than £1bn a year would be generated through deposits, of which £300m was likely to go unclaimed and could help to meet the costs of funding the collection system and improving the wider environment.
Research for Suez by polling firm YouGov found that 74% of the public would be likely to return plastic bottles and aluminium cans were the deposit set at 10p per item.
The poll of more than 2,000 adults also found that 80% thought there should be more public recycling, but only around a quarter said they could either ‘always’ or ‘often’ find a suitable recycling bin for plastic bottles or aluminium cans when out, and 39% said they put these in general bins if no specific recycling point was available.
Half those polled felt the deposit should be donated to charity or public services and 40% would claim the cash back.