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Wed, 8 July 2020

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The Scottish Government is wrong to include glass bottles in its proposed Deposit Return Scheme. Here's why

The Scottish Government is wrong to include glass bottles in its proposed Deposit Return Scheme. Here's why

British Glass are concerned that the introduction of a DRS which includes glass could lead to a reduction in the recycling of glass | Credit: British Glass

Dave Dalton, CEO | British Glass

4 min read Commercial

The decision by the Scottish Government will be to the future detriment of our environment, not to mention the future of glass packaging, impact on consumers, and the viability of local authority recycling collections.

Undeterred by the current coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Government has recently voted through the final regulations for its proposed bottle Deposit Return Scheme.

This scheme will mean that for every beverage in the scheme that you buy, you will be charged a deposit on the bottle, which is paid back to you when you return it to a dedicated venue or retailer.

Despite constructive opposition from industry and retailers on how the scheme could be improved, the Scottish Government has chosen to include glass beverage containers in its DRS plans – counter to consumers’ preference to have glass recycling collected from their households.

They got it wrong.

This decision will be to the future detriment of our environment, not to mention the future of glass packaging, impact on consumers, and the viability of local authority recycling collections.

The UK and Welsh Governments are currently seeking to introduce their own Deposit Return Scheme for beverage bottles.

The glass industry is not opposed to Deposit Return Schemes, it has proven to be successful at increasing the recycling rate of certain packaging items in other countries, but simply put, it is the wrong solution for increasing glass recycling in England and Wales, where there are established and successful recycling infrastructures.

Glass is one of the most sustainable materials on earth.

It is 100% recyclable and can be melted and re-melted without ever reducing its quality.

What many people don’t realise is that making new glass from recycled glass actually reduces the cost and, importantly, the CO₂ emissions and energy use required for producing every new bottle.

However, we are concerned that the introduction of a DRS which includes glass could lead to a reduction in the recycling of glass.

Including glass in a Deposit Return Scheme means we will have two glass recycling systems.

This puts at risk the future viability of the collection of glass food packaging from households, such as jars, which represents about 30% of all glass packaging.

By splitting the total volume of glass captured across two systems, it is less financially viable for councils to continue collecting glass food packaging at our kerbside, threatening the overall recycling rate for glass, and costing twice as much to collect.

There is a good reason why five out of the top seven European countries for glass recycling do not recycle glass through a DRS.

Alarmingly, international evidence also suggests that including glass in such a scheme actually increases the amount of single use plastics on the market. 

When schemes were introduced in Germany there was a 60% increase in consumption of plastic.

Consumer confusion is also a risk as only beverage containers are included in the DRS proposals. Instead of people being able to recycle their wine bottle in the same way as  their jam jar or olive oil bottle – they’ll have to put some glass in their normal recycling, and take the rest back to a shop. 

It’s also not the solution the public want.

According to consumer research, when asked what would increase the recycling of glass, UK respondents cited more kerbside recycling of glass (73%) and more bottle banks (69%) as the first and second options for improving glass recycling; ahead of the introduction of DRS.

There is a good reason why five out of the top seven European countries for glass recycling do not recycle glass through a DRS.

Glass must be recycled right, and this means improving the systems we have in place right now, not splitting the system in two – to the detriment of both.

Our household and bottle bank collections already collect 68.8% of glass packaging for recycling across the UK, one of the highest rates of any packaging material in the UK.

At British Glass we know more can be done.

We should not think of used glass packaging as waste: it is an opportunity and a valuable raw material for making new glass bottles and jars.

We only need to look to Wales too see what can be achieved, where 87.3% of glass is already being collected for recycling at the kerbside.

By building on the success of our current household and bottle bank recycling schemes, enhancing communications and information on recycling, underpinned by consistent recycling across local authorities and reformed Extended Producer responsibility, we can reach our ambition of a 90% collection for recycling rate by 2030, and create a truly circular economy.

We should not think of used glass packaging as waste: it is an opportunity and a valuable raw material for making new glass bottles and jars.Opportunity for it to be re-melted back into new bottles time and time again.

But in order to do this, we must get glass recycling right – and we must collect glass beverage containers in a more effective, and efficient household recycling system.   

Glass, let’s recycle it right.  

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