New plans set out in a consultation response detail that, through small cash deposits placed on single-use drinks containers, people will likely be incentivised to recycle their drinks bottles and cans, reducing litter and plastic pollution.
The scheme would include special machines, known as reverse vending machines, and designated sites where people can return their bottles and receive their cash back. In most cases it would be the retailers who sell drinks covered by the scheme who would host a return point.
Every year UK consumers go through an estimated around 14 billion plastic drinks bottles and nine billion drinks cans, many of which are littered or condemned to landfill.
The new scheme, covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is set to be introduced in 2025, following extensive work with industry to prepare for the necessary changes – including setting up infrastructure and amending labelling. It aims to ensure 85% fewer drinks containers are discarded as litter after three years of its launch.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
''We want to support people who want to do the right thing to help stop damaging plastics polluting our green spaces or floating in our oceans and rivers.
That is why we are moving ahead using our powers from our landmark Environment Act to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers.
This will provide a simple and effective system across the country that helps people reduce litter and recycle more easily, even when on the move.''
The UK Government will work with the Devolved Administrations, and industry to press ahead with delivery of the scheme. The response to the consultation, published today (20 January 2023), showed that 83% of respondents were in favour of the new system.
International examples show that a deposit return scheme can become a simple part of daily life to make recycling easier, with recycling rates above 90% in Germany, Finland and Norway. Current recycling rates for drinks containers in the UK sit at around 70%.
A target is in place to collect over 85% of returnable drinks containers once the scheme is up and running.
Following today’s announcement, focus will now turn to bringing forward legislation and beginning the appointment process of the Deposit Management Organisation – an independent, industry-led organisation, which will be established to run the scheme. The Deposit Management Organisation will set the amount for the refundable deposit.
Dusan Stojankic, VP of Operations at Coca-Cola in Great Britain & Ireland, said:
''We strongly welcome today’s commitment by the Government to introduce Deposit Return Schemes in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Coca-Cola has long called for a well-designed Deposit Return Scheme that works seamlessly across Great Britain to reduce litter, and enable more packaging to be collected and recycled at the highest quality.