13 September 2017 by Steve Eminton

Deposit scheme ‘not the same’ as carrier bag levy

Comparing the idea of a deposit refund scheme for drinks bottles and cans to the plastic bag levy is not a good idea, panellists at RWM said yesterday (12 September).

Deposit panel: (l-r) chair Maxine Perella; Helen McFarlane of McDonald’s; Nick Brown, Coca-Cola; Paul Vanston, Incpen; and Frances Page Pimenta, Defra.

Representatives of two of the UK’s largest food and drinks suppliers, McDonald’s UK and Coca-Cola both queried the comparison idea which has been mentioned a lot with regard to the idea of deposit refund scheme (DRS) which is backed by the Scottish government.

Helen McFarlane, environment consultant for McDonald’s said: “You can’t say the bag charge effect will have the same impact as DRS. What behavioural change is going to be achieved? Is it going to drive people to carry around a cup?”


Endorsing this stance, Nick Brown, head of sustainability for Coca-Cola European Partners, said: “I am not sure the comparison with a carrier bag is a good idea. With a deposit on cups and soft drinks there will be a lot more stakeholders involved than with carrier bags.”

The panel on ‘Are deposit return schemes the solution for packaging EPR?’ was chaired by environmental journalist Maxine Perella. Also speaking were Frances Page Pimenta, a policy advisor with Defra’s producer responsibility division, and Paul Vanston, the recently appointed chief executive of packaging body, Incpen.


Ms Page Pimenta said that a DRS would not be mutually exclusive to the existing packaging producer responsibility scheme involving PRNs. And she said that “we would seek a holistic approach” to producer responsibility, adding that the current producer responsibility system “is certainly something that’s looked at after 20 years”.

The Defra official added: “Defra wants to have a look at our existing schemes with regard to Brexit and improving environmental standards’.

European countries including Germany operate deposit schemes for bottles

Mr Vanston said that in assessing DRS, there should be a look at “the overriding benefit of DRS which should be about what extra is going to be delivered”. He also emphasised the need for evidence-based policies.


“The deposit system is not a silver bullet on litter,” commented Mr Vanston, who also reflected on how such a system might impact on local authorities. “I don’t think that kerbside systems will disappear but there is a risk that DRS could compete with kerbside systems that are doing well.”

In terms of the impact on the consumer, Ms McFarlane said: “We have concerns over the impact on the consumer. We would want to avoid a situation which clashes with existing schemes where they are in place – where there are kerbside schemes and our restaurants also provide collections.”

Mr Brown of Coca-Cola noted: “Undoubtedly a deposit scheme is designed to change people’s behaviour. It would have to be designed to have the smallest impact on people who are doing the right thing.”

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