Skip to main content

Deposit Return Scheme should be consistent across UK with cartons included, argues Environmental Audit Committee

21 May 2021

Publishing its contribution to the Government's consultation on Deposit Return Schemes for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has called for Defra to introduce a scheme which is interoperable throughout the UK.

The Committee argues that it would be easier for consumers to understand and simpler for the drinks industry if the rules for deposit return schemes were consistent across the four nations of the UK.

In its submission, the EAC also recommended that cartons be included in the deposit return scheme, which is not currently within the Government's scope.

There are strong environmental arguments in favour of collecting cartons, and there is existing capacity within the UK for cartons to be properly recycled and repurposed.

Failure to include cartons from the outset would result in greater costs should the material be added at a later stage.

The EAC also heard evidence that including glass in the deposit return scheme could enhance recycling rates further, with 18% of wasted containers in the UK in 2019 being glass, despite good kerbside collection.

However, this is dependent on glass being compacted (rather than crushed) and ensuring safety and space concerns for small retailers are considered. 

Chair's comments

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:

"Over recent years the environmental impact of single-use packaging has been brought into focus.

"Yet despite growing awareness, and increased rates of recycling, in 2019 Brits still wasted eight billion drinks containers.

"This is not just a major wasted resource but a huge source of litter, polluting our streets, roadsides, rivers and beaches.

"A deposit return scheme can increase current rates of recycling, incentivising people to get money back on their single-use containers.

"So it was disappointing that the Government delayed the introduction of a DRS to 2024, and it is critical that this consultation helps finalise design of the scheme so it is not delayed any more.

"It is absolutely right for producers to become responsible for the whole lifecycle of their packaging, but it must be fair across sectors.

"That is why the Government must ensure the DRS roll-out includes all materials and allows the Deposit Management Organisation to determine the fee structure across sectors."

Further information

Image: Pexels