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What Will A Deposit Return Scheme Change?

June 2nd 2021

The bottle bank in Queen Street  
Over the past year, East Lindsey District Council has collected double the number of glass deposits at its bottle banks. Whilst some of this increase was down to various lockdowns, it's not clear whether the amount of deposits will go back to normal.

What we do with all of the rubbish we generate is a perennial problem. Litter is something that a lot of Ludensians feel strongly about, which leads on to one proposal to try to reduce the amount: a deposit return scheme.

Deposit Return Scheme Consultation

The government is consulting on a deposit return scheme, and this consultation closes on 4th June. The proposals are quite in-depth, and the consultation document gives quite a few ideas about how it would work. Questions include what targets should be set, whether there should be a minimum charge and if so how much, details of the payments producers may have to make, what sizes of containers should be included, and what needs to be on the labels.

The suggested timeline is that a scheme would launch in late 2024. This is the second consultation, so the proposals within it are less about whether a scheme should go ahead, and more about the nitty-gritty of how one would work. In a few years we could be paying more for some of our drinks, and getting that money back only when we redeem the empty bottles or cans.

What Difference Will It Make?

The idea behind the scheme is to increase recycling rates, and to reduce littering. These are useful aims, no doubt.

However, even if a scheme is put in place, and it is successful, it will only succeed in getting people to change their behaviour in order to dispose of their rubbish in the correct way. But this refuse will still exist in the world and potentially still be generated at the same rates. Whilst this is less problematic for glass and metal that can be recycled infinitely, most plastics can only be recycled a limited number of times, and often into different types of product.

A deposit return scheme isn't designed to reduce overall consumption of packaging, which is one thing that would really help to turn the tide not just on litter, but on the environmental harms that come with creating a mountain of disposable stuff in the first place.

Nonetheless, a lot of the litter that gets left on the streets tends to be drinks cans and bottles, and cutting that by 90% would have an impact. Having 90% of the containers in the scope of this scheme returned and recycled is one of the targets suggested in the proposals.

A deposit return scheme may not run entirely smoothly or on time, but that's not the main reason to be sceptical. A greater concern is that it seems like tinkering around the edges of the problem, and it's a problem that extends beyond litter, which is bad enough, to the larger environmental crisis due to using a lot of fossils fuels to carry on making disposable items, eventually leading to climate breakdown. People should carry and use their own reusable drinks bottles, and this scheme isn't geared towards encouraging that.



 


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