16 July 2019 by Will Date

Gove backs ‘all-in’ DRS

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has suggested that the government will move forward with an ‘all-in’ deposit return scheme for drinks containers in a speech in London this afternoon (16 July).

The Secretary of State delivered a wide-ranging speech on the natural environment at Kew Gardens this lunchtime, in what many have speculated may be his last public appearance in Defra’s top job.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, delivering the speech at Kew Gardens this afternoon

During the address he touched on the likely contents of the government’s Environment Bill, which will be delivered later this year, and will set the framework for environmental legislation over the coming years.

Consistent

Mr Gove suggested that the Bill would lay the foundations for an ‘all-in’ deposit scheme, which is likely to include all PET plastic drinks bottles, aluminium and steel cans and glass bottles.

He said: “Where waste cannot be avoided, we will introduce a consistent and simplified approach to recycling across local authorities, making it simpler for everyone to recycle, with a consistent set of materials to be collected from all households and businesses, and clearer labelling on packaging so we all know what we can recycle.

“We will ensure producers pay the full cost of disposing of their packaging. At the moment, producers currently pay only 10% of the cost of household waste. We will make them responsible for 100% of the net cost incurred in dealing with their waste.

“Alongside action on recycling there will be new powers to introduce deposit return schemes for drinks bottles. The government’s waste reduction partner, WRAP, have persuasively argued that the deeper that deposit return schemes drill into the value chain – extending to cover full life cycle costs under producer responsibility, and an ‘all in’ standard – the clearer the financial and social signal will be to recycle.

“We need to work with business to make deposit return schemes as effective as possible and I believe an ‘all-in’ model will give consumers the greatest possible incentive to recycle.”

Michael Gove

“We need to work with business to make deposit return schemes as effective as possible and I believe an ‘all-in’ model will give consumers the greatest possible incentive to recycle.”

An all-in DRS is one of the deposit scheme options being considered by Defra to boost recycling of drinks packaging. The measure would see a deposit fee applied to all drinks beverages placed on the market, irrespective of size, which can be recouped by consumers when they return them for recycling.

A second, ‘on-the-go’ option had also been considered, restricted to drinks containers less than 750ml in size and sold in single format containers – which are more typically consumed outside of the home.

Some sceptics of the DRS as a means of driving up recycling had suggested that an ‘on-the-go’ model may be a more appropriate as it would be less likely to ‘cannibalise’ material from existing collections by councils at the kerbside.

CPRE

However, environmental and anti-littering campaigners have been keen to see the measure covering the widest possible set of materials to maximise the reach of the scheme.

A DRS system would see consumers given a rebate on drinks packaging returned for recycling

Commenting on Mr Gove’s speech today, Maddy Haughton-Boakes, litter campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “We welcome Michael Gove’s support for an “all-in” deposit return system that would halt the environmental damage caused by the tens of billions of plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans consumed every year in the UK.

“This is the strongest signal yet of the government’s intention to transform the way that we deal with the waste created by drinks containers, preventing them from choking our countryside, streets, rivers and oceans. These comments are another step forward from the government’s work to meet the ambitious targets laid out in its Resources and Waste Strategy.”

CPRE said that the measure could also “relieve cash-strapped local councils and us as taxpayers from this huge financial burden” of handling waste.

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