Industry responds to Government plans for a deposit return scheme, with some reservations

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Following the Government’s announcement that it is to hold a consultation on a deposit return scheme (DRS), many companies in the recycling and waste sector have cautiously welcomed the proposals.  

The Recycling Association has said that although a DRS is likely to lead to a “purer stream of material to recycle”, there is also a need to understand what it means for the entire recycling system, such as how local authorities will replace its revenue stream, and if this will make collections of other materials uneconomic.  

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Its chief executive Simon Ellin said that rather than bring in one solution to one issue, we need to look at the system and see if a DRS can be part of that.  

He added: “There is already a review of Extended Producer Responsibility being undertaken by the Advisory Committee on Packaging as part of the Resources & Waste Strategy, and it could be this could lead to more appropriate funding levels to address recycling performance and littering while maintaining existing infrastructure and quality levels.”  

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has welcomed this plan but said that it will need to work alongside other policies. 

It said that any new DRS will need to be looked at in the context of the upcoming Resources and Waste Strategy to ensure a package of measures that helps the UK achieve its aim of becoming a world leader in resource productivity.  

ESA executive director Jacob Hayler said the biggest priority for the recycling sector is “greater support for end markets of recycled materials” and that there is no point recovering this material if there is no space for it.  

LARAC has stated that the evidence so far is inconclusive on the benefits of a DRS and agreed with the two opinions above that more work needs to be done ahead of any implementation of this in the UK. 

While the organisation welcomes a DRS that focuses on hard to recycle materials, it has raised concerns, similar to that of Ellin’s, that it may “undermine the integrity of the services that local authorities have developed at great expense”.  

However, it does support the concept of an “on-the-go” system, as producers become responsible for the items they create.  

LARAC chair Carole Taylor said: “Local authorities provide comprehensive collection schemes for the materials that a DRS would target, and our first step should be to put funds into these from producers to increase kerbside performance even further.  

“If the public really have an appetite for DRS then it needs to be one that targets on the go material and helps address the litter problem that local authorities spend £700 million each year dealing with, valuable funds that could be better utilised on other local services.”  

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