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MPs examine how deposit return schemes can improve plastics recycling

12 February 2021

The Environmental Audit Committee has launched a new inquiry looking at the introduction of deposit return schemes in England and across the UK.

Background to the inquiry

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 predecessor 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.

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.

Chair's comments

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."

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written submissions, with a deadline of Friday 5 March, on the below areas.

In respect of the scheme to be proposed for England:

  • The types of waste to be collected under the scheme
  • The materials to be included in the scheme’s scope
  • Scheme design ('all-in', 'on-the-go' or other models) and the level and scale of deposit charges
  • The obligations on retailers at all levels (including online-only retailers) to participate in the scheme
  • The effect on scheme design of recent changes in patterns of retail activity
  • The impact of any scheme on existing reuse and recycling and reuse systems
  • The impact of any scheme on local authority kerbside collections and on local authority revenue streams dependent on the value chain of recyclables


  • The potential relationship between deposit return schemes and other packaging waste initiatives promoted under the Resource and Waste Strategy, such as the packaging producer responsibility system and consistency in kerbside collections of dry recyclables.
  • How the use of deposit return schemes is likely to affect the UK’s progress towards meeting the targets set in the Resource and Waste Strategy.
  • The scope for interoperability between any schemes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to be established under Schedule 8 to the Environment Bill and the scheme to be established in Scotland under the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020.
  • The factors which have contributed to the successful implementation of deposit return schemes in other jurisdictions.

Further information

Image: Ishan, Unsplash