An influential group of MPs have advised the government that they should introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.
In their new report published today, the Environmental Audit Committee referred to “serious and legitimate concerns” about the proposals, but recommended that a “legislated Deposit Return Scheme for all PET plastic drinks bottles” should be put in place following close consultation with retailers.
However, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) is urging the government to consider the impact that a bottle deposit scheme would have on small retailers.
Today’s report cites evidence - given by the ACS - of problems in implementing the scheme, with space, cost and health and safety being the key areas of debate.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “There are still fundamental issues with the administration of a deposit return scheme that haven’t been addressed by the Environmental Audit Committee’s report. The space required to house reverse vending machines in convenience stores is extremely burdensome and in many cases just not practical, and there are a host of issues with a manual return system including not just the space required to store bottles being returned, but also the health and safety implications of dirty bottles being taken back to stores and staff having to process them.
“It is right that the government is looking at the issue of recycling, but we do not believe that a deposit return scheme is the most effective approach. As well as our concerns about the impact on retailers, local authority representatives gave evidence to this inquiry about how a deposit return scheme could undermine existing kerbside recycling. Parliaments and government departments across the UK need to think carefully about all of these issues, and propose the best ways of improving recycling rates and reducing plastic waste.”
The UK government is currently considering a range of measures to tackle plastic waste, and has set up a Voluntary and Economic Incentives Working Group to look at the issue of deposit return and reward schemes, as well as other incentives.
On Tuesday, environment secretary Michael Gove suggested that the government was looking at a four point plan for tackling plastic waste. This would included cutting the total amount of plastic in circulation, reducing the number of different plastics in use, improving the overall rate of recycling, and educating consumers on what should and shouldn’t be recycled.