Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he supports an ‘all-in’ approach for the deposit return scheme (DRS) for England and Wales.
In a speech at Kew Gardens, London today, Gove suggested that the scheme could require retailers to take back plastic, glass, metal, HDPE bottles and other containers, with no limits on the size of the container that can be returned.
“The government’s waste reduction partner, WRAP, have persuasively argued that the deeper that deposit return schemes drill into the value chain – extending to cover full life cycle costs under producer responsibility, and an ‘all in’ standard – the clearer the financial and social signal will be to recyclem” he said.
“We need to work with business to make deposit return schemes as effective as possible and I believe an ‘all-in’ model will give consumers the greatest possible incentive to recycle.”
Responding to the Secretary’s comment, Association of Convenience Stores said the move to an ‘all-in’ DRS would place significant burden on local shops.
“Taking back glass and plastic bottles of all sizes and could present hygiene and health risks to store colleagues handling soiled and broken drinks containers, and would require significant space for return machines capable of handling this breadth of packaging, and storing it securely,” James Lowman, chief executive of ACS, noted.
ACS has repeatedly raised concerns about the space, cost, staff time, and hygiene and health risks associated with an ‘all-in’ system, which is among the two options being considered by Defra and the model currently being developed in Scotland.
Lowman asked the government to re-think the support for all-in system which he termed as a “blunt instrument” that undermines the existing kerbside recycling infrastructure.
“We urge the Government to look more closely at a well designed deposit return scheme that strategically maps the location of return points and focuses on tackling the core problem of consumers not recycling plastic containers whilst on the move,” he said.
Defra has also suggested in the consultation on the topic a second option for DRS known as the ‘on-the-go’ model, which would restrict the drinks containers in-scope to those less than 750ml in size and sold in single format containers, targeting drinks most often sold for consumption outside of the home.
However, NFRN welcomed the ‘all-in’ DRS suggestion by Gove, saying it has long been a supporter of the introduction of deposit return schemes across the UK.
“We see it as a matter of responsible retailing – doing what is right to protect our environment while giving retailers the opportunity to develop their businesses,” said Stuart Reddish, national president of NFRN.
“As members of the Implementation Advisory Group we have been working very closely with the Scottish Government on the design and implementation of a DRS in Scotland and we look forward to working equally as closely with the government in Westminster,” he added.