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March 9, 2009

Let's Recycle.com

Introducing deposit schemes "a no-brainer"

A nationwide deposit and return scheme for drinks bottles and containers would help the UK to increase its recycling rate as well as reducing litter, a report jointly published today (March 9) by the Policy Exchange think tank and the Campaign for Rural England (CPRE) has claimed.

The 'Litterbugs' study cited overseas experience of deposit schemes as proof that, as well as reducing litter, they helped to boost reuse and recycling rates and promote "virtuous behaviour".

CPRE president Bill Bryson claimed the introduction of a UK-wide deposit scheme for bottles was a 'no-brainer' (image courtesy of CPRE)

CPRE president Bill Bryson claimed the introduction of a UK-wide deposit scheme for bottles was a "no-brainer" (image courtesy of CPRE)

A deposit scheme generally involves an additional charge being added to the price of a drink which is then returned to consumers when the empty container is taken back to a retailer.

In the report, the president of the CPRE, Bill Bryson, said: "Bottle deposit schemes are working well in New York State, slashing litter levels and boosting recycling. Another ten or so US states operate similar systems, as do South Australia and European countries such as Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

"All report significantly increased recycling rates. Surely a no-brainer, then, to introduce a similar system in the UK, which Ipsos-MORI research for CPRE shows would be supported by around 80% of people."

Claiming that the government was "intent" on finding reasons not to introduce deposit schemes in the UK, Mr Bryson added: "The fact of the matter is that the recycling rate in this country, while much improved in recent years, still lags behind many of our European partners and, as we have already established, we are world leaders in litter."

Industry concerns

The report acknowledged that there were "industry concerns" about introducing a nationwide deposit scheme in the UK, and in particular it explained: "Many existing and proposed contracts to build recycling facilities for local authorities are based on contractors expecting minimum amounts of material to recycle.

"If much of this material were instead diverted back to retailers and suppliers through a deposit scheme, the economics of such arrangements would be undermined, hindering growth of recycling capacity," it added.

But, labeling that situation "not insoluble", it said called for the potential of introducing a scheme to be explored "but only as part of a fuller review of waste policy".

Deposit schemes have already been mooted in Scotland as part of the country's 'Zero Waste' agenda (see letsrecycle.com story), but their effectiveness was questioned by a Defra research project published in December 2008.

The Defra research agreed that they would help to boost recycling rates, but claimed that "alternative schemes could achieve the same or better results at a lower cost", and raised concerns over the cost of the schemes - both to retailers needing to develop storage infrastructure and to householders who could less easily return bottles to get their deposit back.

New York State

The 'Litterbugs' report used the experiences of New York State in the US as proof of the effectiveness of a deposit scheme, claiming that, since the scheme was introduced in legislation in 1983, it had recycled 90 billion containers - equivalent to six billion tonnes of materials - at no cost to local authorities.

And, it also said that, by preventing containers from becoming litter, the legislation, which is known as 'the Bottle Bill', had "significantly reduced" demand for landfill space.

It said: "New York State's experience with a deposit scheme appears to have been positive, the most tangible evidence of this being high levels of public support and dramatic falls in container and driveby litter.

"The scheme has reduced littering significantly and has helped to promote a virtuous cycle of behaviour," it added.


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