Deposit return scheme kick-start for recycling?
(Bottle reverse vending machine in Engadine, Sydney, Australia; photo by Maksym Kozlenko)

Deposit return scheme kick-start for recycling?

Incentivising people to recycle and reuse has historically been a challenge. But perhaps history offers a solution with drinks containers?

Summary: A deposit return scheme for single-use plastic bottles and cans will be introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2025, according to UK Environment Minister Rebecca Pow. The scheme, which was approved after a public consultation, would see small cash deposits placed on the containers and would include reverse vending machines and designated sites for customers to recycle the items. The government aims that the scheme will reduce the number of discarded drinks containers by 85% within three years of launch.

Why this is important: Waste is something that has a number of negative impacts (GHG emissions, health and well-being etc) and a number of solutions from the raw materials and processes used to make packaging and products to their design, to what we do with waste once it has been created.

The big theme: Waste has been an inevitable problem of the traditional linear production and consumption model. Reducing and eliminating waste is a big area for decarbonisation in energy and finished goods such as packaging - waste less, consume less, generate less. What we do with that waste can also contribute to harmful emissions. The circular economy and other recycling paradigms offer one route. Other innovations from the technological to the economic to the behavioural can also help.

The details

Summary of a press release from The UK Government

Following overwhelmingly favourable response to a consultation (83% in favour), the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will work with the Devolved Administrations to launch a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2025. Small cash deposits would be placed on single-use drinks containers and through the use of reverse vending machines, people would be able to get that cash back when they return their drinks containers.

UK consumers use approximately 14 billion plastic drinks bottles and nine billion drinks cans each year. Current recycling rates for drinks containers in the UK are roughly 70%. In Germany, Norway and Finland where DRS exists, recycling rates are above 90%. The target for the UK scheme is to collect more than 85% of returnable drinks containers and ensure that 85% fewer containers are littered (and ultimately sent to landfill) three years post launch.

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