Publishing its contribution to the Government’s consultation on Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has today (21 May) called for Government to introduce a scheme which is ‘interoperable throughout the UK’.
The DRS will see shoppers pay a deposit on drinks containers that can be redeemed when the container is returned to a designated collection point.
Aiming to tackle plastic pollution, increase recycling rates, improve recyclate quality and minimise litter, England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s DRS is expected to come into force in late 2024. Scotland is also set to launch its own DRS in 2022.
The Committee argues that it would be easier for consumers to understand and simpler for the drinks industry if the rules for DRS were consistent across the four nations of the UK.
In its submission, the EAC also recommended that cartons be included in the DRS, which is not currently within the Government’s scope.
There are strong environmental arguments in favour of collecting cartons, and the EAC says there is ‘existing capacity’ within the UK for cartons to be properly recycled and repurposed. It says that failure to include cartons from the outset would result in ‘greater costs should the material be added at a later stage’.
A deposit return scheme can increase current rates of recycling, incentivising people to get money back on their single-use containers. So it was disappointing that the Government delayed the introduction of a DRS to 2024
The EAC also heard evidence that including glass in the DRA could enhance recycling rates further, with 18% of wasted containers in the UK in 2019 being glass, despite good kerbside collection.
However, this is dependent on glass being compacted (rather than crushed) and ensuring safety and space concerns for small retailers are considered.
Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “Over recent years the environmental impact of single-use packaging has been brought into focus. Yet despite growing awareness, and increased rates of recycling, in 2019 Brits still wasted eight billion drinks containers. This is not just a major wasted resource but a huge source of litter, polluting our streets, roadsides, rivers and beaches.
“A deposit return scheme can increase current rates of recycling, incentivising people to get money back on their single-use containers. So it was disappointing that the Government delayed the introduction of a DRS to 2024, and it is critical that this consultation helps finalise design of the scheme so it is not delayed any more.
“It is absolutely right for producers to become responsible for the whole lifecycle of their packaging, but it must be fair across sectors. That is why the Government must ensure the DRS roll-out includes all materials and allows the Deposit Management Organisation to determine the fee structure across sectors.”
CIWM and partners recently organised a DRS webinar designed to help people understand Defra’s DRS consultation.