UK Government Announces National Bottle Deposit Return Scheme Plans

Connector Spring 2018

The UK Government will aim to crack down on plastic pollution with a deposit return scheme in England for single-use drink containers.

Businesses and consumers will be consulted on the details of how such a scheme would work alongside other measures to increase recycling rates.

The announcement, made on March 28, was confirmed by Defra Secretary Michael Gove, who said the Government was committed to prevent plastics from “wreaking havoc” on the natural environment.

“It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled,” Gove said. “We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans.”

Although the announcement comes at a time when reduction of plastic waste in the environment is top of mind, the bottle scheme is also expected to cover single-use glass and plastic bottles, and steel and aluminum cans.

The deposit on drink bottles and cans will increases prices – but consumers will get the money back if they return the container. The announcement follows a similar move from the Scottish Government last year. Return schemes are in place in countries such as Demark, Sweden, and Germany, where recycling rates are above 90%.

A deposit return scheme sees consumers pay an up-front deposit between 8-22p when they buy a beverage, which is redeemed on return of the empty drink container. Other models include cash rewards for returning drink containers without an upfront deposit. This is often achieved through a network of ‘reverse vending machines’, where plastic or glass bottles are inserted into a machine which returns the money.

Businesses will be responsible for ensuring a bottle is effectively recycled once it is returned. Most of the major retailers including Aldi, Co-op, Tesco, and Iceland have already given their backing to such a scheme.

Scotland has already announced plans for a deposit return scheme and in Wales, ministers said they want to help implement a UK-wide system.

Northern Ireland will consider the approach as part of a review later this year.