Mike Jackson, managing director of Prismm Environmental, says we should make any potential deposit return scheme (DRS) on bottles and cans not 5p, not 10p, not even 50p – but a quid. Here, he tells us why…
I think a deposit return scheme (DRS) is a great idea. But we have got to ensure that it will work, which is why I suggest we should make the deposit a pound. Not 5p, not 10p, not even 50p, but a quid.
Why? Well, if it is £1, then people will make sure they return it to be recycled. But if it is less, there is always the temptation to throw it away.
You could say that people have responded to the 5p charge on carrier bags and drastically reduced their use of them. And that is true. A deposit on a bottle is different, as people tend to take a bag now when they go to a shop as they can easily put them in their pocket of another bag for use when shopping.
If you buy a bottle of water or a can of a soft drink though, it is more inconvenient to carry it around and so the reward needs to justify why people should return it. And I don’t think that 5p or 10p will be enough. People will happily chuck away a bottle or can if they can only get 10p back on it.
If you buy a bottle of water or a can of a soft drink though, it is more inconvenient to carry it around and so the reward needs to justify why people should return it. And I don’t think that 5p or 10p will be enough…
Plus, there are benefits to society of charging a quid deposit to ensure a bottle gets recycled. It gives potential income to homeless people to collect the bottles that have been littered, or charities and schools can get people to donate bottles to raise funds. Additionally, people are more likely to think twice about whether they should buy the drink in the first place, and that will cut down on creating waste and littering, and prevent more consumption of sugary drinks.
The introduction of DRS is a positive for the UK overall as it will lead to a purer recycling stream, deal with the issue of on-the-go recycling and reduce littering.
In the short-term, there will be some pain for a handful of companies that collect the bottles and cans from households, especially if a quid deposit were to entice people to take their drinks containers to the machine or shop rather than leave it in their household bins.
Local authorities may lose out on this revenue too.
But over the longer-term, DRS set at a level such as £1, would incentivise people to recycle properly. It would also mean there would need to be less investment in sorting technology by the waste management companies and local authorities. For those bottles and cans still in the domestic waste stream, why not let the companies and local authorities claim back the £1 deposit towards the cost of recycling?
Another benefit of taking these materials out of the domestic recycling stream is that we could then have separate paper collections, removing many of the contaminants that damage the paper and cardboard, and making paper a cleaner commodity to sort.
By making the deposit a quid, it brings value to recycling, and that is something that will be of benefit to all of us, making people realise that the materials are important and should be recycled.