The Environment Bill, which first made an appearance in the Queen’s Speech, made its long-awaited return to Parliament at the start of this year and more recently had its Second Reading, writes James Lowman of ACS
At the beginning of this year we finally saw the government’s focus shift from the 2019 preoccupations of Brexit and the General Election to some domestic policy issues, many of which will impact those of you reading this column. One of the main areas of interest for the government and general public is the environment, in particular the issue of single-use plastics.
The Environment Bill, which first made an appearance in the Queen’s Speech, made its long-awaited return to Parliament at the start of this year and more recently had its Second Reading. The Bill outlines proposals for a number of measures, including the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) on drinks containers to tackle plastic waste.
Everyone agrees that there needs to be action taken to tackle waste from single-use plastics, so the question is about which measures we adopt and how do we develop well-designed policies that will actually be effective, rather than whether we should take action.
We raised our concerns about the impact of DRS on small shops to Parliamentarians ahead of the Bill’s Second Reading and asked the government to consider how it will ensure that the scheme works for convenience retailers so they are not left out of pocket by any initiative and facing operational burdens.
For a deposit return scheme to work for small shops it must be cost neutral for retailers taking back containers, and should be based around reverse vending machines being available in all mandated return points, rather than relying on messy, space-hungry, time-consuming and unhygienic manual returns. To meet all these conditions, we need a network of return points in the right locations so consumers can return containers conveniently, and so that the costs of operating the scheme are controlled.
We continue to talk to Defra, MPs and government officials to help shape a scheme that reduces plastic waste and also works for local shops and their customers.