Now that the government has published its consultation document about a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, the convenience industry can start to work out how much it is going to cost it.

While the proposals are officially subject to consultation, some form of legislation was inevitable from the moment that Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II programme hit the airwaves. Politicians build their careers on this stuff, and the government is desperate for some “good news” at the moment, so it looks more than likely that we will end up with a deposit scheme delivered via reverse vending machines and manual collection points. And this latter part is troubling for small stores, who will largely be expected to take in used drinks containers over the counter, scan them and bag them. Not only does that sound time-consuming, it’s also a bit, well, yucky.

The quantity of outlets for soft drinks in the UK is numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Does it make sense that absolutely every outlet that sells packaged soft drinks should become a manual collection point for recycling? Surely there has to be a cut-off point for very small outlets?

If we can get this latter point accepted, perhaps there is some leeway for the participation threshold to be set at a level that will exempt some very small stores from becoming waste collectors, at least for hygiene reasons if not grounds of practicality or basic fairness. It might be a false hope, but the only way we can make any headway on this issue is to respond to the consultation.