Local authorities will overall get a net benefit from the introduction of a Deposits Return Scheme for drinks containers, according to Zero Waste Scotland which is helping plan for the introduction of the scheme north of the border.
And, plans for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in Scotland look likely to favour a higher deposit level, and are being drawn up on an ‘all-in’ basis to encompass a wide set of materials and container sizes.
Details of the possible format of the Scottish DRS, which will be introduced ahead of similar schemes in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, were discussed at the annual conference of the Scottish branch of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee in Glasgow yesterday (2 May).
The measure sees consumers pay a deposit on the purchase of a soft drink, which is recouped if the packaging is returned for recycling.
Zero Waste Scotland, the Scottish government funded resources body, is currently drawing up the final designs for how a Scottish DRS will function ahead of the introduction of legislation for the scheme later this year.
David Barnes, programme manager for Zero Waste Scotland, told the conference that the measure in Scotland is primarily aimed at reducing litter, whilst also capturing a higher volume of drinks containers and at a higher quality than those collected at the kerbside.
Questions were raised from delegates about the cost of the measure, as well as the impact on local authority kerbside collections, and whether it would incentivise ‘picking’ from recycling bins to create an income.
Up to 20p
Mr Barnes indicated that plans are being considered for the DRS rate to be set at a level that would incentivise the purchaser to return the packaging, with a potential deposit of up to 20p per item on the table.
“From our perspective, what we are keen to do is set the deposit rate at a level that motivates the person who purchased the container to return it for recycling, not just to create an opportunity for those who are less well off to do that.”
On the materials that this is likely to cover, he suggested that an ‘all-in’ approach is favoured by the Scottish Government, meaning that it will target all container sizes and materials.
“We are looking at an all in DRS,” he said. “Scottish Government has determined that it [an on the go DRS] doesn’t deliver the step change we are looking for, it targets that narrow a proportion of the containers that it doesn’t deliver against the objectives I have described.
On the likely impact on income streams for local authorities, he said that the loss of revenue for recyclable materials would be offset by an increase in the diversion of material away from the residual waste stream, and a reduction in the cost of managing the proportion of that waste as litter.
“In terms of the impact for local authorities, we are aware that some of the material is an income stream but there is a huge amount going to residual waste that is being treated at cost to local authorities, and actually what our modelling shows that local authorities are net beneficiaries in terms of financial savings.”
Earlier in the day the conference also heard from the Scottish Government’s head of zero waste unit Janet McVea, who also highlighted the ongoing consultation on extended producer responsibility being undertaken alongside Defra.
She said: “The aim is to incentivise and steer manufacturing choices. But, I can’t emphasise enough how much of a game changer this reform could be and the opportunities that could present for local authorities and the opportunities to support more consistent collection of materials.”
On the impact of a DRS on local authorities, Ms Vea added: “There will continue to be a need for effective kerbside collections alongside a DRS and we will continue to work with local government as implementation plans progress.”