Coca-Cola decision to back deposit return scheme branded ‘fantastic and heartening’

Posted On: 
23rd February 2017

Campaign to Protect Rural England has welcomed the soft-drinks company's decision to introduce a deposit return scheme.

Credit: 
PA

The soft-drinks giant Coca-Cola has thrown its support behind calls for the Scottish Government to introduce a deposit return scheme, in an effort to reduce littering and boost recycling.

Campaign to Protect Rural England this morning welcomed the news, describing it as “fantastic and heartening news”.

The U-turn came after the soft drinks giant took a fresh look at the evidence and agreed that only a deposit system for drinks containers can deliver the step-change in recycling and litter reduction that is needed.

Deposit return schemes (DRS), in which consumers pay a small sum which is paid back when they return a bottle or can, operate in many countries around the world​.

Ministers in Westminster are also considering the same opportunity, with England facing the same challenges with regard to plastic pollution, wasted resources and high levels of littered bottles and cans.

Environmental groups have urged the Scottish Government to introduce a DRS, forming an alliance through the ‘Have You Got the Bottle’ campaign and arguing the scheme would increase recycling, combat climate change, cut costs for local authorities and boost employment.

Coca Cola revealed at a Holyrood event that it has now come out in support of a DRS, with a spokesperson saying “it’s already clear from our conversations with experts that the time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are underway”.

Samantha Harding, CPRE Litter Programme Director, says: ‘This is fantastic and heartening news. It’s admirable that Coca-Cola has been bold enough to change its position after seeing the benefits of deposit return. Our hope is that such positive progress in Scotland will encourage England’s ministers to follow the success of the carrier bag scheme with the best solution for drinks litter – a deposit return system.’

Ms Harding added: ‘'Within the past week, waste giant Suez UK has come out in support of deposit return and now the world's best known drink, Coca-Cola, has. This establishes the principle that deposit systems are the best solution for capturing and recycling valuable bottles and cans. We can now work with those involved in the scheme on the finer details but to have reached this level of agreement is unprecedented.'

SNP MSP Richard Lochhead, who has pushed for Scotland to introduce DRS, said the move was significant.

The former Cabinet Secretary for the Environment told Holyrood: “I warmly welcome Coca-Cola’s decision to drop their opposition to deposit return schemes in Scotland. There is no doubt this is very significant and will inject fresh momentum and more credibility into the case for such a scheme to help boost recycling and tackle litter.

“I am sure this development will reverberate far and wide. I have no doubt the Scottish Government, and governments in other countries, will sit up and take notice.”

A Coca-Cola spokesperson said: “We’ve made significant progress to improve the sustainability of our packaging in recent years. For instance, all our bottles and cans are 100% recyclable. We’ve also reduced the amount of material we use, making our packs as light as possible and we are committed to increasing the amount of recycled and renewable material in our plastic bottles from 25% to 40% by 2020.

“We believe that we can go further. That’s why we have embarked on a major review of our sustainable packaging strategy to understand what role we can play in unlocking the full potential of a circular economy in Great Britain.

"Since the start of the year, we have been consulting with expert organisations, NGOs and policymakers. We are focused on our packaging, the role of our brands and the ways we can collaborate with others to improve recycling rates and reduce litter.

“Our sustainable packaging review is ongoing, but it’s already clear from our conversations with experts that the time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are underway.”

Coca-Cola said 63% of consumers support the introduction of a deposits system in the UK, and 51% say they would be more likely to recycle as a result.

The spokesperson added: “From our experience elsewhere in Europe, we know that deposit schemes can work if they are developed as part of an overall strategy on the circular economy, in collaboration with all industry stakeholders. We will support any well-thought-through initiative that has the potential to increase recycling and reduce litter.

“We expect to publish the results of our review and sustainable packaging strategy in the summer and remain fully committed to finding new ways to minimise the materials we use; reduce waste; and work with all stakeholders to improve recycling rates across Great Britain.”