YouGov survey finds ‘variable’ deposit return scheme not ‘too complex’

The majority of respondents to new YouGov research, released today (17 March), said they would not find a variable rate deposit return scheme (DRS) ‘too complex’.

Commissioned by Alupro, the aluminium packaging recycling organisation, 2,000 adults across Britain were surveyed about ‘best practice DRS design’ and whether a ‘variable’ rate deposit fee would add ‘unnecessary confusion’.

It comes as the UK Government is set to introduce a DRS covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2023. The scheme 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 2023. Scotland is also set to launch its own DRS in 2022.

There has been much discussion over what ‘best practice’ might look like in this area, with calls for schemes that will include all materials, not just plastic, and of all sizes, and also questions about whether a ‘flat’ or ‘variable’ fee is best.

While a variable rate fee would see containers allocated with a deposit value based on container size, a flat rate model would apply a fixed fee to all beverage containers. This approach could see customers charged an additional £4.80 for a 24-can multipack (on top of product purchase price) compared to just 80p for a 2-litre plastic bottle, according to Alupro.

Scotland will go ahead with a ‘flat’ fee approach, which Zero Waste Scotland says will ‘give people a clear incentive to return all their empty bottles and cans, regardless of size’.

There is concern among some, including Alupro, that a ‘flat’ deposit fee will have ‘serious implications’ for the sale of single serve and multi-packs and risks incentivising consumers to purchase two-litre plastic bottles.

Variable system

The YouGov insight, however, suggests that 85% of Brits consider a variable system easy to understand and support ‘higher deposits for larger containers’.

More than four in five respondents suggested that the concept of a DRS was easy to grasp (84%), and that the idea of varying the deposit value based on container size was ‘equally simplistic’ (85%).

Just over half of adults (55%) agreed that the deposit fee should be lower for smaller items and higher for larger ones, while three in ten (30%) thought the deposit amount should be the same across all sizes of packaging. A small minority admitted that they were undecided (15%).

These findings contradict government research from 2019, which suggested that a variable rate would be far too complex for householders.

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “Our independent research aimed to analyse real-world views regarding awareness of DRS design and understanding of deposit fees. According to the results, it’s safe to say that now, more than ever, householders want the best solution for the future – not the cheapest or the fastest.’

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