Analysis of the plastic bottle deposit return scheme (DRS) in Norway suggests retailers will not suffer financial losses from the introduction of the scheme in the UK, as long as bottles and cans are returned.
Environmental Secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to launch DRS in the UK and MPS are due to debate the subject on 26 April.
Out of the 13 billion plastic bottles currently sold in the UK only 43% are recycled, with a further 700,000 littered every day. In Germany, which introduced DRS in 2003, 99% of plastic bottles are currently recycled.
Similar schemes operate in 38 counties, and campaigners have worked for a decade for its introduction in the UK.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which performed the analysis of the DRS in Norway, found that the businesses would not suffer losses from DRS running in the UK. However, consumers would suffer a financial loss if they failed to return the bottle or a can, which aims to encourage a strong take-up of the system.
CPRE litter programme director Samantha Harding said: “I am thrilled that we will finally see the many benefits a deposit system will bring to England, not least the absence of ugly drinks containers in our beautiful countryside.
“This analysis of the deposit return system cycle should dispel any misconceptions that retailers or consumers may have about how the system will work, and more importantly how it is funded. No one will be out of pocket, so long as the bottles and cans are returned.
“What’s significant is that producers will now pay the full costs of their packaging, reducing the burden on the taxpayer and setting a strong precedent for other schemes where the polluter pays.”
The scheme is subject to a consultation by the MPs, it is not yet clear if all the retailers of single-use drinks will be required to participate and how the scheme will work. The government has said 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’.
UK Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said: “After a long delay it is good to see the government moving forward on this issue. This scheme should have been introduced long ago – and it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing plastic waste.”
According to CPRE, in order for DPR to work well, it needs to collect all materials of all sizes.
Harding added: “Introducing a system that only collected half of what it could, would be a costly mistake,” she said. “We need the maximum number of retail-based return points. And it should be mandatory, as a voluntary system simply wouldn’t work.”
MPs are due to debate the DRS as part of measures to reduce plastic waste, which affects the environment; the environment audit committee recommended it after the investigation into plastic waste last year. The committee also recommended a levy to be placed on takeaway coffee cups to cut their use and reduce littering.