The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has announced plans to launch a deposit system for bottles and cans in the UK, and MPs are due to debate the subject in parliament today.

At present just 43% of the 13bn plastic bottles sold each year in the UK are recycled, and 700,000 are littered every day. In Germany, a DRS was introduced in 2003 and 99% of plastic bottles are recycled.

The exact details of how the scheme will work will be announced after a consultation and the government has said it “will only take forward options from the consultation which demonstrate that they offer clear benefits and are resistant to fraud, and costs on businesses, consumers and the taxpayer are proportionate”.

Analysis of the DRS in Norway by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) – which has lobbied for a deposit scheme for a decade – found that businesses will not suffer losses from such a system run in the UK. Consumers will only suffer a financial loss if they fail to return the bottle or can, encouraging strong take-up of the system.

Samantha Harding, litter programme director at the CPRE, said: “This analysis of the deposit return system cycle should dispel any misconceptions that retailers or consumers may have about how the system will work, and more importantly how it is funded. No one will be out of pocket, so long as the bottles and cans are returned.”

CPRE said in order for a DRS to enjoy high return rates – in Norway the return rate is 95% – it has to collect all materials of all sizes.

“Introducing a system that only collected half of what it could would be a costly mistake,” she said. “We need the maximum number of retail-based return points. And it should be mandatory, as a voluntary system simply wouldn’t work.”

MPs are due to debate plastic bottle return schemes as part of measures to reduce plastic waste. The environment audit committee recommended a DRS after its investigation into plastic waste last year. It also recommended a levy be placed on takeaway coffee cups to cut their use and reduce littering.

Sandra Laville

This article first appeared on the Guardian

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