Take small shops’ concerns on DRS into account, MPs urge

A reverse vending recycling machine that dispenses cash. (Photo: iStock)

A debate on the second reading of the Environment Bill has seen MPs raising concerns on the impact of the proposed deposit return scheme (DRS) on convenience stores.

The DRS should consider the space constraints faced by the small retailers, they urged.

“The Government may want to consider the impact of such a scheme on small business owners and in particular shopkeepers,” said James Davies, Tory MP representing Vale of Clwyd.

“Many convenience stores will not have the space to store bottles or install reverse vending machines, and it is a real concern of the industry that customers will change their shopping habits towards larger stores as the deposit return scheme is introduced, as they have done in Germany.”

His fellow Conservative and Rugby MP Mark Pawsey echoed similar concerns.

“We need to consider the number of return points and whether there will be one at all sales points. Will cafés and restaurants be included? Will the scheme provide an exemption for small retailers that lack the space to install a reverse vending machine? Given the lower volumes from smaller retailers, how will we make certain that it is cost-neutral for them?”

MPs have also urged government to ensure a UK-wide and all-in DRS.

“I am concerned that as Scotland is introducing its own deposit return scheme two years earlier, DEFRA’s scheme for England and Wales might not be compatible. It should be,” said Bath’s Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse.

The Scottish DRS, due to be introduced in 2021, will charge consumers a 20p deposit and include aluminium and steel cans as well as drinks containers made of glass and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic.

“One of the key things we need to look at is getting an all-in deposit return scheme that deals with recycling at least some of the plastic in our environment,” said Labour MP for Blaydon Liz Twist.

Defra has earlier said that it would hold a second consultation on the proposed regulatory framework for introducing a DRS through secondary legislation, including more detailed proposals for the nature of any such scheme.

Government has re-introduced the Environment Bill to parliament in late January, proposing the introduction of a bottle deposit return scheme among other measures. The bill was originally introduced in October 2019, but delayed by the General Election before moving onto the committee stage.

The bill introduces measures to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats. The enhanced bill proposes new powers to stop the exports of polluting plastic waste to developing countries and a new commitment to review the biggest developments in environmental legislation from around the world every other year.

The bill also proposes powers to ensure producers’ responsibility for the waste they create and to introduce new charges on single use plastics.