The Environmental Audit Committee has launched a new inquiry looking at the introduction of deposit return schemes in England and across the UK.
Deposit return schemes aim to incentivise consumers to return packaging for a financial ‘reward’. The scheme involves adding a small deposit on top of the price of a product which is refunded when the waste is returned to an in-store collection point.
Although deposit return schemes tend to focus on drinks containers, they could cover all types of containers and packaging. Deposit return schemes are in place in around 40 countries and have generally been very successful. For example the plastic drinks bottle scheme in Norway has led to 95% of those items being recycled.
Typically countries with deposit return schemes for plastic bottles achieve recycling rates of between 80% and 95%.
In December 2017 the Environmental Audit Committee found that the UK landfills, litters or incinerates 5.5 billion plastic bottles per year. It subsequently called for a deposit return system to be established to help tackle the rise in plastic waste.
Our committee is keen to help frame the scheme to ensure it increases recycling and reduces waste, without creating unintended consequences which could undermine the need to minimise the environmental impact of what we consume.
In August 2019 the Government responded to its initial consultation on a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in England. It promised a further consultation in the spring of 2021 prior to the introduction of a deposit return scheme in England in 2023.
In the Environment Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, the Government has proposed a framework for deposit return schemes which might be implemented in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The Committee’s inquiry will focus on the final design of a DRS scheme for England.
It will also consider the introduction of UK-wide interoperable deposit return schemes under the Schedule 8 framework within the Environment Bill and separate Scottish legislation.
Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, launching the inquiry said: “The introduction of a deposit return scheme is eagerly awaited. Our committee is keen to help frame the scheme to ensure it increases recycling and reduces waste, without creating unintended consequences which could undermine the need to minimise the environmental impact of what we consume.
“I urge those interested in both policy and practical aspects of the scheme to let us know your views.”