Retail NI has responded to the publication of a new consultation from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), calling on the department to ensure that a manually administered deposit return scheme “does not form part of its plan to encourage people to recycle more”.
The consultation which covers Northern Ireland, England and Wales was published last week and proposes a network of return points made up of reverse vending machines and manual return points which would be hosted by retailers and in other locations.
The impact assessment published alongside the consultation suggests that small convenience stores would be required to take back containers manually because “reverse vending machines will not be an economic solution” for them.
Retail NI argues, however, that manual returns would cause a number of issues for retailers and would not be a practical solution.
Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts – “Any plans to introduce a deposit return scheme must abandon the idea of requiring manual returns and focus on a fully funded and strategically located network of reverse vending machines that allow consumers to recycle more without causing unnecessary problems, delays and health hazards in small stores.”
Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “The retail sector has a part to play in ensuring that less plastic ends up on our streets, countryside and oceans. We share the same objectives as the Government, but have concerns with their proposed methods to address this problem”
“We welcome the Government’s acknowledgement that reverse vending machines may not be economically or practically viable for small stores, but requiring those stores to take part in a manual return system would be extremely problematic.
“Issues our members have identified include a lack of space to store returned containers, hygiene problems from handling dirty containers, colleagues having to deal with potentially hundreds of returned containers every day, and the queues and customer disruption this could cause.
“Any plans to introduce a deposit return scheme must abandon the idea of requiring manual returns and focus on a fully funded and strategically located network of reverse vending machines that allow consumers to recycle more without causing unnecessary problems, delays and health hazards in small stores.”
“All In” vs “On The Go”
In the consultation, the Government outlines two main options for the scope of products that would be included in a deposit return scheme. The first option is an ‘all in’ approach which covers PET and HDPE plastic bottles, aluminium and steel cans and glass bottles, with no restriction on the size of containers in scope. The second option specifically targets ‘on the go’ consumption, with the containers in scope limited to 750ml in size as well as excluding multipack containers.
Mr Roberts continued: “The concerns that we have about the practicality of manual returns in small stores would only be amplified if the size of containers was unlimited. Larger containers are typically consumed at home and then recycled through the existing kerbside collection network. We do not believe that there is a need to include them within the scope of a deposit return scheme.”
The call follows a summary of responses to Scotland’s deposit return scheme consultation, which found the overall balance of opinion was strongly opposed to a scheme limited to “on the go” products, according to the Scottish Government.
Those opposed to an on the go scheme highlighted difficulties in defining ‘on the go’; the potential impact on efficiency and cost-effectiveness because of the lower volumes involved; the risk of consumer confusion; and the possibility of market distortion.