The UK’s two deposit return schemes (DRS) could end up increasing the demand for plastic, the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) warns ahead of Global Recycling Day.
Amid criticism and uncertainty over the start date, Scotland is due to launch its DRS in August 2023 for vessels of 50ml to three litres, made from PET, aluminium and glass. Whatever the size of the container, the deposit will be 20p.
Research carried out by Alupro, the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation, surveyed 2,000 people to understand how their buying habits would change if there was a 20p deposit on every can or bottle of any size, as proposed in Scotland.
Two-thirds of those currently buying cans in multipacks would be likely to switch to plastic bottles. Even if the deposit was 10p, half (51%) said they would still be likely to choose the plastic bottles over the multipack of cans.
BMRA suggests one way to avoid this could be to introduce a variable-rate DRS. It says this model is already proving successful in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Under the so-called Nordic Model, a varying deposit is levied on drinks containers based on their size and material, rather than a single flat rate.
Given the cost-of-living crisis, would people pay more for their cans of drink versus a bigger bottle?
Antonia Grey, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the BMRA, commented: “The DRSs are inherently a good thing to encourage further recycling thereby reducing our reliance on primary materials.
“However, aluminium cans already have a convenient kerbside home collection and with recycling rates as high as they are, it would be interesting to see what the impact would be. For example, in 2021, Alupro reported that four in five (82%) beverage cans were recycled, making this the most recycled beverage packaging type in the UK.
“Recycling aluminium cans in the UK is an efficient closed-loop system. We agree with concerns presented by other Associations and industries, that it could add additional pollution to a system already working. In addition, given the cost-of-living crisis, would people pay more for their cans of drink versus a bigger bottle?”