Demands at Westminster to speed up introduction of container deposit scheme

Calls have been made in Parliament to speed up the introduction of a scheme that pays consumers to return drinks, bottles and cans for recycling.

It follows concerns over delays to the measure, which would see customers charged a levy on single-use containers that is refunded when returned to recycling points.

A deposit return scheme (DRS) has been planned since 2018 and in 2019 the Government pledged to bring in the provision, to reduce litter and boost recycling, in 2023.

But a recent Government consultation indicated a scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would not be up and running until late 2024 at the earliest.

Scotland is bringing in its own initiative in July next year.

A change is being urged to the Environment Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, which would accelerate the setting up of the scheme and require it to be operational by January 2023.

Following Britain’s departure from the EU, the legislation will allow the Government to set long-term targets for the natural environment, including on air quality, water, biodiversity and waste reduction.

It also provides for environmental improvement measures from recycling to protecting natural habitats.

Independent crossbencher Viscount Colville of Culross said the deposit scheme was one of the most important parts of the Bill.

“It will have a seismic effect on consumer behaviour, improve our environment and strengthen the circular economy.

“The scheme is so important it needs to be wider in scope and swifter implementation.

“The present target of late 2024 at the earliest is far too slow for such an important measure.”

Labour frontbencher Baroness Jones of Whitchurch said there was a considerable evidence from Europe that deposit return schemes drive up recycling “and thereby cut back on litter and landfill”.

She added: “There is no reason why this scheme cannot be operational by January 1 2023.

“People want action on this and they want it quickly.”

The Palace of Westminster (John Walton/PA)
The Palace of Westminster (John Walton/PA)

Environment minister Lord Goldsmith of Richmond said the Government remained committed to delivering a scheme this Parliament, which had been a manifesto pledge.

He said: “I appreciate members are keen to see the introduction of a DRS for drinks containers introduced as soon as possible and so am I.

“But realistically, particularly following the impact of the pandemic, we do need to make sure we balance this anticipation with the needs of businesses which will need time to adapt their processes to a DRS.”

Pointing out the net cost to firms of the measure was likely to be £266 million a year, Lord Goldsmith added: “So we do need to make sure we fully consider the time needed for them to adapt.”