Government warned to learn from past mistakes and introduce an all-in deposit return scheme

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
The DRS consultation will run for 12 weeks

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has warned government to learn from past mistakes on deposits for bottles and cans and create an “all-in” system.

This is in response to a consultation launched by Defra which asked views on two models of a deposit return scheme (DRS): ‘all-in’ or ‘on-the go.’

An on-the-go scheme would exclude bottles over 750ml.

CPRE highlighted extracts from an archived transcript of the Beverage Container Bill 1981, which would have required all cider, beer and soft drink bottles to carry a deposit.

This was declined due to packaging manufacturers promising to cover the cost of the waste it generated.

The transcript showed 26 trade associations lobbied the government to reject a DRS on the grounds that they would voluntarily deal with pollution.

Last year, the packaging industry paid just £73m towards the £1bn clean-up costs, according to CPRE.

Samantha Harding, litter programme director at CPRE, said: “Retailers and packaging producers got their way in 1981 and look at the mess we’re in now. Consumption has sky-rocketed, while recycling has flat-lined.

“Our countryside, rivers and oceans are choked with plastic; and many of the drinks containers are collected so inefficiently that their poor quality means we struggle to recycle them within the UK, and the rest of the world no longer wants them either.”

Yet retailers say a DRS could undermine kerbside recovery.

A spokesperson from the British Retail Consortium said: "Targeting on-the-go consumption avoids undermining existing household collection schemes, taking away a key source of revenues for local councils, as well as making life more difficult for households who can currently recycle these items from the comfort of their home."

Environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) said an on-the-go scheme would fail to capture billions of plastic bottles.

During its 500 beach and river cleans in October, 58% of the 27,696 single-use drinks containers were 750ml or larger.

Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of SAS, said: “Despite the stark evidence on our beaches, industry is pushing for a watered-down scheme risking billions of plastic bottles ending up in our oceans.

"The UK government must do the right thing for our seas and marine life and put in place a simple ‘all-in’ system without further delay.”

Surfers Against Sewage is urging government to deliver an ‘all-in’ DRS sooner than the 2023 target set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy.

The consultation is one of four launched by Defra to 'overhaul' the UK waste system.

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