The government has today announced that people in England will soon have to pay a deposit when they buy drinks in bottles and cans. The new charge will be made on single use plastic and glass bottles, along with steel and aluminium cans, as part of an effort to reduce waste and increase recycling. A consultation is being carried out to decide how the deposit scheme will work and the date for its implementation is yet to be announced.
In the UK alone, we use about 13 billion plastic bottles per year and well under half of these are currently recycled. So if a deposit return scheme encourages consumers to recycle more plastic, that has to be a good thing.
Across the world, 40 countries already have deposit return schemes for plastic bottles. The deposit cost ranges from 8p per bottle in Sweden to 22p in Germany. Germany has had its deposit return scheme since 2003, and 99% of plastic bottles are recycled there, as compared with 43% in the UK.
This is a highly positive move for the environment, but retailers have expressed concern that putting the plan into action could cost up to £1 billion. It would involve installing special machines in stores to receive and sort the bottles and give refunds to customer automatically for the bottles they return. It's undoubtedly complicated to introduce, but is becoming increasingly essential as the problem of plastic waste continues to grow.