Deposit return system for plastics could generate £2bn for UK economy

An "all-in" deposit return system that accounted for all types of drinks cans and bottles in the UK could generate up to £2bn for the economy over a 10-year period, compared to £250m for an "on-the-go" system that collected less.

Deposit return system for plastics could generate £2bn for UK economy

The analysis was conducted using Defra’s own impact assessments

The UK Government announced plans in February 2019 to drastically modify waste management systems through a consultation. A key aspect of the consultation is the introduction of a consistent set of materials collected across England from households for recycling and a “world-leading” tax on plastic packaging, as outlined in the Resources and Waste Strategy late last year.

The government announced it was exploring two variants of a deposit return system, which will operate for cans and plastic and glass bottles. An “all-in” model would focus on all beverages placed on the market, irrespective of size, while the second, “on-the-go” model would restrict drinks containers that could operate in the system to less than 750ml and sold in a single format.

According to new research from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), an all-in system would generate £2bn over a 10-year period, while also reducing waste sent to landfill, improve water and air quality levels and reducing emissions associated with the production and extraction of raw materials. The charity notes that this would result in “huge savings” for the Treasury, local councils and taxpayers.

CPRE’s litter campaigner Maddy Haughton-Boakes said: “This is yet more evidence of the positive impact that a deposit return system will have on the whole of society. Taking us towards a circular economy, we will recycle almost all of the drinks cans and bottles we consume, slow down the depletion of scarce resources and reduce carbon emissions, all of which will have a lasting positive impact for our countryside and environment.

“And if that wasn’t good enough, this solution will generate billions of pounds for our economy. The government has an opportunity to ensure England gets the most effective and economically viable deposit system in the world. A failure to ensure that all drinks containers – of all sizes and materials – are included in the scheme would be a clear sign that they were putting the profits of vested interests above the benefits to society, the economy, our countryside and environment.”

Systems choice

The analysis was conducted using Defra’s own impact assessments and estimates suggest that recycling of drinks bottles and containers would be boosted to above 90%; In the UK, approximately two billion cartons are purchased each year and less than 10% are recycled.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government revealed the results of its consultation on implementing a national deposit return scheme for drinks packaging, confirming that it will introduce a 20p deposit fee for all PET and glass bottles as well as aluminium and steel cans.

At a corporate level, the likes of the Co-op, Morrisons and Iceland have all trialled variants of the system, with the latter firm capturing more than 300,000 bottles in less than a year.

Matt Mace

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