Plastic deposit return scheme proposed and EA given more powers in fight against waste

29th March 2018

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs have been busy this week.

Yesterday they announced a deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates and reduce waste subject to consultation later this year and today new powers to stop waste crime have come into force.

To tackle the blight of single-use plastic, the Government confirmed it will propose a deposit return scheme in England for single use drinks containers (whether plastic, glass or metal). A consultation will look at the details of how such a scheme would work, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates before a decision is made.

Similar schemes already operate in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Germany. A deposit return scheme sees consumers pay an up-front deposit when they buy a drink, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, which is redeemed on return of the empty drink container. Possible variants of a deposit return scheme include cash rewards for returning drinks containers without an upfront deposit.

This is often done through a network of ‘reverse vending machines’, where you insert your plastic or glass bottle or can and the machine returns your money. Once a bottle is returned, businesses are then responsible for making sure they are effectively recycled – a move that has led to a 97% recycling rate in Germany.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment – killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats. It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled.”

New powers to tackle waste crime also come into force today as the Environment Agency is given the authority to lock up illegal waste sites and block access in order to prevent tonnes of waste piling up and posing a risk to the environment.

The Environment Agency has also been granted the power to require rogue operators to clear all the waste at a problem waste site, not just the illegal waste. The changes are in response to a public consultation where 90% of respondents supported proposals for the regulator to take physical steps to curb illegal waste activity.

These announcements are the latest in the Government’s attempts to crackdown on plastic, following the plastic microbeads ban  and the 5p plastic bag charge. Commentators are suggesting this is in response to the ‘Blue Planet Effect’ which has mobilised many against plastic after the the popular David Attenborough ‘Blue Planet’ series raised awareness on how plastic was damaging the environment recently.
The EAUC will engage with DEFRA on all relevant consultations and we are keen to hear members’ viewpoints. If you would like to contribute, please email us.
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