A deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and cans will be introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2025 – one year later than planned – the government has confirmed today.
Glass bottles will be excluded from the schemes in England and Northern Ireland, which will make small cash payments to people through ‘reverse vending machines’.
It aims to ensure 85% fewer drinks containers are discarded as litter after three years of its launch, boosting recycling rates for the estimated 14 billion plastic drinks bottles and nine billion cans bought by UK consumers every year.
A similar scheme in Scotland, which launches in August, will accept glass bottles, and so will the scheme in Wales.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “We want to support people who want to do the right thing to help stop damaging plastics polluting our green spaces or floating in our oceans and rivers.
“That is why we are moving ahead using our powers from our landmark Environment Act to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers. This will provide a simple and effective system across the country that helps people reduce litter and recycle more easily, even when on the move.”
International examples show that a deposit return scheme can become a simple part of daily life to make recycling easier, with recycling rates above 90% in Germany, Finland and Norway. Current recycling rates for drinks containers in the UK are around 70%.
Today’s announcement comes after the government last week announced that a ban on single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene containers, will be introduced in England from October 2023.
IEMA’s circular economy policy lead, Adam Batchelor, wrote a blog outlining what this means in practice.
Commenting on today's announcement, Philip Dunne, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said that the government's decision to exclude glass from a deposit return scheme in England and Northern Ireland was a "missed opportunity".
He added: "I urge ministers to work constructively with the scheme operator established in Scotland to ensure that the schemes in operation in England and in Scotland are as compatible and interoperable as possible.”
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