Procurement · 28 March 2018

Drinks bottles deposit scheme proposed for consumers in England

There are over 150m tonnes of plastic put into the world’s oceans every year

People in England could soon to pay a deposit on drinks bottles and cans, as the government announces plans to increase recycling rates and cut waste.

The deposit scheme would see drinks prices will increase as consumers will pay an up-front cost, however people can claim money back by returning containers.

Business owners will be responsible for recycling returned bottles.

UK consumers go through an estimated 13bn plastic drinks bottles annually, but more than three billion are not recycled.

Commenting on the announcement, environment secretary Michael Gove said: “It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled.”

Currently the unrecycled waste is either incinerated, sent to landfill or left to pollute streets, countryside and marine environment.

“We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment – killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats,” said Gove.

Read more: “Latte levy” could unfairly hit independent coffee shops

The government confirmed that the scheme will be introduced later this year for single use drinks containers whether plastic, glass or metal.

Today’s announcement sits alongside the 25 Year Environment Plan and follows the plastic microbeads ban and the 5p plastic bag charge.

Gove added: “We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans.”

The bottles scheme will follow a consultation, to be held later this year. The consultation will consider producers, suppliers and consumers views to enable a system that works nationally.

But plastic producers may be worried as the industry could be liable to fund the return deposit scheme.

Currently plastics producers pay just ten per cent of the cost of recycling packaging.

Coinciding with wider reforms to reduce packaging waste the scheme urges companies to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products.

Gove said: “The consultation will look at the details of how such a scheme would work, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates.”

“We hope to talk to the devolved administrations about the scope for working together on this important issue.”

Similar schemes are already successful in countries such as Germany, Sweden and Norway.

Redeemable returns in these countries range from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany for empty drinks bottles.

The process is usually done through “reversible vending machine” where you insert the containers and then retrieve money.

Businesses are then held responsible for ensuring the waste is recycled. This method has led to a 97 per cent recycling rate in Germany.

In support of the proposal, author Bill Bryson, a former president of Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Future generations will look back on this decision as a piece of supremely enlightened policymaking, and one that raises the prospect of the world’s most beautiful country becoming free from drinks container litter at last.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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