The Environmental Audit Committee has launched an enquiry into deposit return schemes across the UK. These schemes work to incentivise the consumer population to return packaging waste in exchange for a financial reward. 

Deposit Return Schemes

Deposit Return Schemes have become increasingly popular globally. Around 40 countries have introduced these schemes and seen significant success. Norway, for example, introduced a plastic drinks bottle recycling scheme which led to a 95% recycling rate on the products. Typically, countries who have introduced these schemes have seen a recycling rate of between 80% to 95% on the products in question. In many cases, and in the case of the new UK inquiry, the product price is actually increased, adding a small deposit to the product which is then refunded on return.  

UK Progress on a Deposit Return Scheme 

The initial suggestion for this deposit return system was introduced in December 2017. The idea came after the Environmental Audit Committee found that 5.5 billion plastic bottles are sent to landfill sites, incinerated, or littered, every year. The scheme was viewed as a solution to the evident issue of rising plastic waste.  “Our committee is keen to help frame the scheme to ensure it increases recycling and reduces waste, without creating unintended consequences which could undermine the need to minimise the environmental impact of what we consume,” explains Environmental Audit Committee Chairman Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP Following on from this, in August 2019 the government responded, suggesting a further consultation in the spring of 2021, with the hope of introducing the scheme in 2023. The 19-21 Environmental Bill, which is making its way through parliament, includes a deposit return scheme framework to be implemented across the UK.