Greenredeem proposes closed-loop plastic recycling alternative to DRS

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
Greenredeem trialled interactive recycling kiosks in 25 schools last year

A new report by Greenredeem has called for Defra to reconsider rolling out a deposit return scheme (DRS) in favour of other plastic bottle recycling models.

The company’s report, Money back for our empties - the recycling solution for our plastic bottles?, lays out the benefits of a scalable closed-loop recycling model and comes just days after the Scottish parliament voted in favour of rolling out a DRS.

Between January and December 2019, Greenredeem in partnership with Plastic Oceans UK and Grundon Waste Management trialled interactive recycling kiosks alongside educational activity across 25 primary and secondary schools in Windsor and Maidenhead.

Students could scan and deposit plastic drinks bottles while engaging with videos, images, and facts about recycling and the environment displayed on each kiosk.

They were also educated through tailored lesson plans to help them understand how to responsibly consume and dispose of plastics.

Each deposited bottle earned 5p for the school to be spent on further educational initiatives.

Twelve thousand pupils recycled nearly 160,000 plastic bottles over the course of the year, with plastic drinks containers sourced at school, at home, at events, and atlitter picks.

The bottles were collected from the kiosks and used to create new plastic bottles, in a closed-loop system.

Greenredeem simultaneously commissioned surveys with over 2,000 respondents, mostly parents from participating schools and members of the wider school community.

The survey results show that awareness of the impact of plastic pollution grew from 88% to 93%, while 75% said that being able to help a local school motivated them to recycle more.

The number of respondents claiming to recycle all plastic bottles when not at home grew from 56% to 62%.

Additionally, Greenredeem found that support for a refundable tax on plastic bottles increased from 79% to 86% during the pilot, and that for almost three-quarters of people, a donation to a school or another good cause was a motivating factor in paying a non-refundable tax on bottles.

Greenredeem is now calling for government to consider a bottle recycling model like theirs, which will support kerbside recycling collections and benefit local authorities, but without the cost of a DRS.

Matthew Ball, managing director of Greenredeem, said: “In the UK, 3 billion plastic bottles are thrown away, littered, or never recycled every year.

“There is a clear need for the government and the industry - from manufacturer to retailer, collector to processor - to find long-term solutions.

“But DRS alone are not the answer. We must invest in convenient solutions that create sustained behaviour change by linking recycling with education, good causes, and people’s priorities.

“The flexible model we piloted provides a readily available and scalable solution which benefits everyone involved.

“The kiosk is a focal point and conduit for recycling that could be rolled out in other ways across the UK - including through an app - to ensure the cost-effective capture of plastic bottles.

“Although the financial reward helped to drive action, the educational initiatives ensured a deeper connection to the cause, helping these behaviours to become sustained.

“If government backs this kind of long-term model, we can make a significant improvement to plastic bottle recycling in the UK.”

Analysis from the Institute of Economic Affairs predicts that establishing a DRS scheme in the UK will cost almost £1b, with annual running costs of £814m.

Under a DRS, local authorities would lose the revenue they make from kerbside collections of plastic bottles.

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