Deposit refund system could save councils £35 million a year

Posted On: 
11th October 2017

New study finds that local authorities stand to benefit from introduction of a DRS for plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans.

A new report published today finds that local authorities across England could save up to £35 million every year if a deposit refund system (DRS) for drinks containers was introduced in England.

Analysis of data across eight local authorities, including those with high and low recycling rates, found that rather than losing income, the individual authorities could potentially make savings of between £60,000 and £500,000.

Some local authorities have expressed concerns that the introduction of a DRS would lead to a reduction in their income, as people use the scheme to recycle their bottles and cans rather than the local authorities’ kerbside recycling systems.

In response to these concerns, a consortium comprising Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Reloop, together with Melissa and Stephen Murdoch, commissioned Eunomia Research and Consulting to look into this issue.

Every day 35 million plastic bottles and 20 million aluminium cans are sold across the UK and many end up as litter, in our oceans or in landfill sites.

Evidence from other countries, including the US, Norway and Germany, shows that the introduction of a simple deposit on plastic bottles and cans can raise collection rates above 90% and reduce littering.

The report finds that local authorities would lose some income as there would be a reduced number of cans and plastic bottles in the kerbside collections to sell to recyclers. However, the savings made from having fewer containers to collect and sort, as well as reduced levels of littering and reduced landfill charges will actually create savings that outweigh the loss of revenue.

It makes recommendations for both government and local authorities on how kerbside services can be adapted to ensure that the savings resulting from a DRS are shared equally between county councils and district councils.

With local authority resources under increasing pressure, these findings provide evidence that, rather than negatively affecting local authority waste services, a DRS could actually support them and reduce the costs of delivering the service, while also delivering cleaner streets and reducing the amount of plastic entering our oceans. 

Allison Ogden-Newton, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said:

“There is no doubt that introducing a deposit refund system would reduce littering in this country but, until now, there has been a concern that it would have a negative impact on cashstrapped councils. This report shows that in fact a DRS would create savings for local government.”

Samantha Harding, Litter Programme Director at CPRE, said:

“There are no longer any valid arguments that DRS doesn’t work and the environmental case is crystal clear. For our coasts and countryside, the cost of not taking action will be far greater than any incurred by the parts of industry that are trying to block this. Michael Gove can now build on the success of the Government’s bag charge and the ban on microbeads by confirming England will have a deposit system.”

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, said:

“Deposit refund schemes are a tried-and-tested way of dramatically increasing recycling rates while reducing plastic bottle and other container pollution on our beaches, in our streets and across the countryside. “This report now clearly shows that introducing a DRS for England would also benefit local economies and communities, saving councils money that could be redirected to vital frontline services. All the evidence points to the unrivalled benefits of introducing DRS for England as soon as possible. Good for the environment, people and the economy.”

Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Policy Officer from the Marine Conservation Society, said:

“We know from evidence around the world that deposit return systems decrease litter and increase high quality recycling. This report shows that such systems will also save local authorities money and we strongly urge the Government to introduce a DRS into England ensuring that it dovetails with any systems in Scotland and Wales.”