Government unveils deposit return scheme blueprints as part of waste management revamp

The UK Government has launched a 12-week consultation to explore how a "world-leading" tax on plastic packaging, standardised waste collections across the country and varying deposit return schemes for single-use items could overhaul and modernise the national waste management system.

The Government estimates that an overhaul to the EPR system will raise between £800m and £1bn annually for recycling and disposal

The Government estimates that an overhaul to the EPR system will raise between £800m and £1bn annually for recycling and disposal

The UK Government has announced plans to drastically modify waste management systems through a new consultation launched today (18 February). The consultation outlines details on plans to address existing collection and manufacturing incentives to improve recycling rates for plastics packaging.

The 12-week consultation will invite insight on a plethora of new recommendations that will feature in the Government’s upcoming Environment Bill, set to be issued early in the second session of Parliament.

A notable aspect of the consultation is that of a national deposit return system, which sees consumers pay an up-front deposit between 8-22p when purchasing cans or bottles, which is redeemed on the return of the empty drink container.

The government is exploring two variants of the 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.

It is hoped that implementation of a deposit return system will help boost beverage container recycling from 57% in the UK to upwards of 95% - mirroring successful systems found in Germany and the Netherlands.

Already in the UK, numerous supermarkets have embarked on deposit return trials, with Iceland having captured more than 300,000 bottles in under 12 months.

Standardised waste collection

Another key focus of the consultation is the introduction of a consistent set of materials collected across England from households for recycling. While waste collection varies from council to council, the Government hopes to standardise what materials can be collected from households for recycling.

The consultation outlines steps for what materials should be included for collection, including plastic bottles, pot, tubs and trays, glass bottles and jars, paper, card and metal packaging. Free garden waste collections have also been mooted as part of the 12-week process.

Household recycling rates in England skyrocketed from 11% in 2000 to around 45% in 2013. However, the following five years have seen recycling rates plateau, with England lagging behind other home nations.

--- EXPLORE THE UK’S WASTE RECYCLING FIGURES HERE ---

In order to fund these new resource measures, the Government is also consulting on its “world-leading” tax on plastic packaging, as outlined in the Resources and Waste Strategy late last year.

The tax will impact any packaging that does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content by 2022. Proposals will suggest that producers will be forced to pay full net-costs of disposal of packaging they place on the market – up from just 10% now - through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system.

The Government estimates that an overhaul to the EPR system will raise between £800m and £1bn annually for recycling and disposal.

The Government is seeking views on how the tax will work, including creating access to a market of recycled content and which businesses should be liable for the tax. The Government will also explore the viability of EPR systems for cars, electrical goods, textiles, vehicle tyres, fishing gear and construction materials in the future.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste. That’s why we are leading the way to move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society and drive up domestic recycling.

“Through our plans we will introduce a world-leading tax to boost recycled content in plastic packaging, make producers foot the bill for handling their packaging waste, and end the confusion over household recycling. We are committed to cementing our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, so we can be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”

A reaction piece will follow on the edie website shortly...

Matt Mace



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