Bottle and can deposit return scheme gets green light in England

Reverse vending machines for bottles in a supermarket in Germany, which started its own scheme in 2003. 99% of plastic bottles are now recycled. [defotoberg/ Shutterstock]

All drinks containers in England, whether plastic, glass or metal, will be covered by a deposit return scheme, the UK government has announced. EURACTIV’s partner The Guardian reports.

The forthcoming scheme is intended to cut the litter polluting the land and sea by returning a small cash sum to consumers who return their bottles and cans.

Similar schemes operate in 38 countries, and campaigners have worked for a decade for its introduction in England.

Fees vary depending on the size of the bottle or can and many use “reverse vending machines” to automate the return.

Once returned, retailers are responsible for properly recycling the containers. Deposit return schemes (DRS) have increased recycling rates to more than 90% in other countries.

At present just 43% of the 13bn plastic bottles sold each year in the UK are recycled, and 700,000 are littered every day. In Germany, a DRS was introduced in 2003 and 99% of plastic bottles are recycled.

“We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment,” said the environment secretary, Michael Gove.

Commission maps out plastics vision in new strategy

The European Commission presented on Tuesday (16 January) its eagerly anticipated strategy on how the EU intends to approach plastic production and pollution over the next decade and beyond.

“It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled. We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans.”

The new DRS for England announced by Gove is subject to a consultation this year and it is not yet clear whether all retailers of single-use drinks will be required to participate.

The government says it “will only take forward options from the consultation which demonstrate that they offer clear benefits and are resistant to fraud, and costs on businesses, consumers and the taxpayer are proportionate”.

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