It’s time to raise the UK’s recycling ambitions and create a world leading all-material Deposit Return Scheme
Tetra Pak are calling for an ambitious, all-in Deposit Return Scheme | Credit: Tetra Pak
In the year that the UK hosts COP26, creating an all-material Deposit Return Scheme with a real impact would demonstrate true environmental leadership.
Central to the UK Governments’ approach to tackling climate change is redefining the country’s approach to recycling, and chief amongst the policies to achieve this is the proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), currently under consultation.
The DRS will see a deposit added to the price of buying a packaged beverage, redeemable when the item is returned to a recycling point. It is an opportunity to foster a culture of recycling in general, and encourage a recognition of the intrinsic value of the raw materials that are used to create packaging.
This is no small task, and to achieve it the Government must set its sights high.
The UK has an opportunity to lead the way in the year it is hosting COP26, setting an example for others to follow
Only ambitious plans will tackle climate change
As the UK has only one chance to get this right, it is essential to seize the moment by implementing an ambitious DRS, that includes a wide range of packaging materials, including carton packages.
The DRS presents a key opportunity for the UK to take a significant step towards realising its ambitions to achieve a truly circular economy, tackle climate change, and reach net zero.
With so much at stake the Government should be ambitious. Limiting the scope of the scheme would be a missed opportunity, particularly if low carbon, renewable packaging formats, such as carton packages, are excluded.
Now is not the time to lower ambitions with a small scale DRS. The UK has an opportunity to lead the way in the year it is hosting COP26, setting an example for others to follow.
Bringing consumers on the DRS journey
While governments set the agenda, consumers need to understand and support a DRS if it is to achieve its aims, and the easiest way to encourage participation is with simplicity.
The DRS offers an opportunity to create a simple, unified system, making it easy for consumers to do the right thing. The easiest way to achieve clarity is to include as many packaging types as possible, including carton packages.
But, by creating a limited DRS, which the current proposal suggests, the Government risks perpetuating consumer confusion and reducing participation.
Building on a legacy of carton recycling
The exclusion of cartons packages from the DRS also risks undermining the progress made by the sector to drive up carton packaging recycling rates.
In the UK, we have invested significant resources in the development of carton recycling facilities and processes. Currently cartons are collected for recycling in over 93% of local authority areas and, in 2013, a dedicated large scale carton recycling plant was opened in Halifax.
This means that the onward processing of cartons, if collected through the DRS, is already proven and in place. Furthermore, if cartons were to be included in the DRS, it would increase the volume of good quality, recycled paperboard available to the industry, allowing further investment to be made in carton recycling infrastructure.
The Government has a choice to make: pursue a limited DRS missing an opportunity to contribute to achieving a true low carbon, circular economy, or; be ambitious, and develop a DRS that is wide in scope, and includes a broad range of packaging materials, including cartons, showing true environmental leadership in the year that the UK plays host to COP26.
The answer seems clear, and we urge anyone with an interest in realising the potential for the UK to achieve a circular economy to add their voice to the call for an ambitious, all-in DRS.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.