RWM 2021 | Now is ‘the wrong time’ for a deposit return scheme

Now is ‘not the right time’ to implement a deposit return scheme (DRS), visitors to RWM in partnership with CIWM were told at the opening keynote this morning (22 September).

The opening keynote session of the resources and waste management event took on the topic of the Resources and Waste Strategy for England, with panellists from WRAP, Viridor and SUEZ discussing whether it would be better for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to wait until extended producer responsibility (EPR) is in place before looking at establishing a DRS.

Chaired by editor, Steve Eminton, the topic was discussed following a question on recycling consistency and the need to make recycling as easy as possible for consumers.

Kevin Bradshaw, chief executive officer of Viridor, expressed that, from a human perspective, recycling had to be about making it easy. He said in this context he was ‘concerned’ about the design of a DRS.

“We need to think through how we simplify the implementation of DRS to make this work,” he said.

When asked directly by the chair whether EPR should come first, with DRS coming later, John Scanlon, chief executive officer of SUEZ, said that he took the view that EPR should come first.

“It’s the wrong time to introduce a DRS scheme,” he said, stating that many people are still working from home and that there is a ready kerbside collection system in place for them to recycle material.

Now it’s all about recycling, focussing on EPR, leaving DRS for the time being

He said that when EPR is established it will drive a change in the format of packaging and that this needs to be understood before rolling out a DRS scheme. He said implementing DRS and EPR at the same time could be ‘confusing’.

He also said, with Scotland implementing their DRS in 2022, there is the opportunity to learn from Scotland.

Currently the implementation of a DRS for England, Wales and Northern Ireland won’t be in place until late 2024 ‘at the earliest’, Defra says. It will see consumers pay a deposit on top of the price of drinks beverages which will be reimbursed when the packaging is returned.

Claire Shrewsbury, Director Insights & Innovation at WRAP, said that WRAP’s stance on the DRS issue is that it should cover ‘on the go’ containers rather than ‘all in’, which would see multipacks and two-litre beverage containers included.

“People think it will solve all problems, but it’s got to be paid for,” she said. “Brands and retailers are being battered with costs and WRAP is concerned how DRS will impact other recycling behaviours.”

She suggested it could have repercussions, such as reenforcing a message that some materials are more important to recycle that others because a monetary value has been attached to it.

“We’ve made a great transition moving from landfill to energy from waste,” said Mr Scanlon when asked his final thoughts. “Now it’s all about recycling, focussing on EPR, leaving DRS for the time being.”

RWM in partnership with CIWM runs from 22-23 September at the NEC in Birmingham.

Send this to a friend