‘Deposit return scheme must be workable for small shops’

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plastic bottles
REUTERS/Feline Lim/File Photo

As the Environment Bill is debated in the House of Commons on Monday, the Association of Convenience Stores has urged the government and MPs to ensure the bill would not impose unnecessary burdens on small shops.

The bill includes provisions for introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in England and Wales and extending the plastic bag charge to other single use items.

“We believe that these provisions will be widely welcomed by many who want concerted action to tackle the tragedy of plastics pollution,” said Environment Secretary Theresa Villers, moving the bill for second reading.

In a briefing to MPs and a letter to Villers, the ACS demanded that the scheme design should avoid manual handling of containers.

“Measures included in the Environment Bill, in particular the introduction of a deposit return scheme, will place considerable and unnecessary burdens on small shops,” said James Lowman, chief executive of the trade body.

“These can be avoided by designing an effective scheme that doesn’t mandate every retailer to take back dirty packaging, and which directs all returns through reverse vending machines rather than over the counter.”

Manual handling poses several risks for retailers, including safety concerns for staff, health and safety implications for retailers that sell fresh food on the premises and additional queueing time and confusion for customers, the association noted.

ACS said the return of used dirty containers should be restricted only through reverse vending machines. It also sought to exclude glass containers from the scheme.

The association also asked for a strategically mapped network of return points, instead of requiring all retailers to have return facilities and an exemption for stores that are smaller than 280 sq.m., with an option to opt-in.

The government has not decided on the regulatory framework of the proposed DRS despite a consultation held earlier this year, saying it would like to receive additional evidence and carry out further analysis on the costs and benefits of the scheme.