Pressure ramped up on current DRS proposals

Retailers have expressed doubt on whether customers are ready for a deposit return scheme (DRS), with the proposals as they currently are.

Retailers called for a simple DRS system

And, the trade association British Glass has published the results of a study which it says proves that the planned DRS “will produce millions of tonnes more carbon and collect less glass than an improved kerbside scheme”.

Committee

At an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee meeting yesterday (7 December) a panel of representatives from the retail sector discussed the DRS, as well as insights into customer expectations and behaviors.

Ms Stirling-Baker said that the DRS is “complicated”

Hellen Stirling-Baker, lead board member for sustainability at the British Independent Retailers Association, appeared at the evidence session to speak on behalf of independent retailers.

When asked whether customers are ready for a DRS to be implemented, Ms Stirling-Baker responded: “I think it’s complicated. I think we’ve got to make sure that we’re making the right decisions, and from my perspective as an independent retailer, it needs to be really clear. For example, what it’s going to look like, where are these machines going to go? Who’s going to pay for them?

“We don’t want to overly confuse anybody when recycling’s already seems to be a problem. It needs to be clear and concise. And that’s for both larger retailers and independent retailers.”

She also questioned whether, without the right communication, a returned deposit would be enough to intensive customers in the long term.

Steven Butts, head of corporate responsibility at Morrisons , also urged the need for “simplicity and uniformity”.

He explained: “For the DRS, it would be very helpful if we could have just one system rather than looking at different systems or slightly different systems in devolved nations because you know, ultimately we’re trying to achieve one environmental goal.”

He added that consumers “would not benefit” from a system that is made too complex.

Credit

However, Andrew Opie, sustainability and food director at the British Retail Consortium, said the  sector must give credit where it is due to consumers, when looking on how far take-back and reuse initiatives have come in recent years.

He noted that initiatives, such as in-store plastic film collection, are just one of the many changes to come from customers wanting to recycle.

He argued: “Let’s not forget that what we have achieved so far has been done on a voluntary basis. And the reason it’s been done on a voluntary basis is that consumers generally expect their retailers to do the right thing, and provide that for them before they come in. I wouldn’t underestimate the pressure that consumers combined with NGOs and the media have had on the market and the changes that we’ve seen.

“Now, we may run into the more difficult areas, but we have seen a significant change in packaging compared to 10 years ago, because nowadays’ that’s what consumers expect.

Study

Mr Dalton said the DRS was the “wrong solution” for glass recycling

Meanwhile, the trade association British Glass backed up its opposition to the scheme by publishing a report it commissioned Valpak to undertake showing issues with the DRS.

British Glass said the report  has shown that recycling glass packaging through an improved, consistent kerbside scheme already planned for 2023 is better for the environment than a deposit return scheme.

It says these measures would save over two million tonnes more CO₂ by 2035 (11% per annum), as well as achieving a higher collection rate of 90%.

The Association said: “While a DRS works for some packaging materials like plastic and aluminium cans, the findings of this report show the best solution for collecting and, importantly, recycling glass packaging is to collect all glass packaging at the kerbside through extended producer responsibility and an improved, consistent kerbside collection programme and not through a DRS”.

Speaking following publication of the report, British Glass’ Chief Executive Dave Dalton said:

“Today’s report confirms yet again what the glass industry has been saying all along, a Deposit Return Scheme is the wrong solution for recycling glass packaging in the UK.

“Including glass bottles in a DRS will lead to over two million more tonnes of CO₂ in our atmosphere. Perversely, we have a situation where we could have a green policy that is actually worse for the environment and a system that would split glass food and beverage packaging into two waste streams, to the detriment of both”.

Useful links

Valpak report for British Glass

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