Supermarkets move to kill off plastic bottle deposit schemeAugust 27, 2023
Supermarkets move to kill off a scheme for shoppers to pay a deposit on plastic bottles and cans to reduce litter and pollution
- Retailers pushing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to ditch the idea due to costs
- Could cost £1.8billion a year to run the scheme, says British Retail Consortium
Supermarkets are moving to kill off an initiative to reduce the number of plastic bottles and cans.
The deposit return scheme (DRS) involves shoppers paying a deposit on drinks containers of around 20p to be refunded when the empties are returned.
It has been heralded by green campaigners and Conservative ministers as key to boosting recycling and so tackling waste, litter and pollution.
However, retailers are pushing Rishi Sunak to effectively ditch the idea on the basis of the costs involved.
Scotland has already been forced to delay the introduction of its scheme until 2025 under pressure from businesses and a dispute with the UK government on how it should operate.
(Stock Photo) The deposit return scheme (DRS) involves shoppers paying a deposit on drinks containers of around 20p to be refunded when the empties are returned
The chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, Allison Ogden-Newton, said ‘the environment is currently paying the high price of not introducing a deposit return scheme’
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) claims a nationwide DRS could cost £1.8billion a year, plus the expense of establishing the required recycling infrastructure, and it suggested the industry will pass on these costs to customers through higher prices.
READ MORE: Plastic bottle deposit scheme that will give 20p refunds for recycling them won’t kick in until end of 2025
The chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, Allison Ogden-Newton, said: ‘Every year, in this country, more than eight billion drinks containers are littered, landfilled or incinerated.
‘The environment is currently paying the high price of not introducing a deposit return scheme.
‘Instead, we are watching the UK’s DRS become a political football and further delay just adds to the millions of tonnes of plastic that pollutes our rivers and oceans, which the public tell us they do not want.
‘Countries around the world, from Germany and Croatia to Ecuador and Estonia, have successfully implemented a deposit return scheme, seeing recycling rates increasing to up to 95 per cent as a result, why would we not want that for our environment?’
Central to the DRS systems are so-called reverse vending machines. Consumers post bottles and cans into the machines and are given vouchers to the value of the refund that can be reclaimed at tills.
Countries across Europe, as well as parts of the USA, run DRS schemes with the result they have much higher levels of recycling, together with reduced waste and litter.
The Daily Mail championed the introduction of the DRS and – before that – the successful 5p charge on throwaway plastic bags to combat waste, litter and pollution.
(Stock Photo) The British Retail Consortium claims a nationwide DRS could cost £1.8billion a year, and suggested the industry would pass on these costs to the customer with higher prices
In 2018 then-environment secretary Michael Gove said there were plans to introduce a DRS as early as 2020 arguing it was time to ‘shift the dial on recycling’.
However, the proposal was subsequently kicked into the long grass along with tax measures to put pressure on manufacturers to cut back on packaging.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said the government should think again about the DRS.
He said: ‘The proposed Deposit Return Scheme is costly, complicated and cannot deliver the step change in recycling needed to justify it.
‘By driving up costs by almost £2 billion per year the government risks pushing up prices for ordinary households, just as inflation is coming down.’
He said the government should first introduce planned changes to household collections and packaging levies before deciding ‘the best way forward on a DRS’.
Mr Opie said: ‘On its current course, it will be consumers who will pay the price of this unnecessarily hasty, expensive and complex scheme.’
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