CPRE launches UK Deposit Alliance

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) will today (10 July) launch a new alliance aimed at ‘providing a focus for the many groups, individuals and policy makers interested in the potential of a UK-wide deposit-refund system (DRS) for drinks containers’.

The UK Deposit Alliance will be unveiled at the British Library Conference Centre in London today to ‘provide the latest thinking on how a deposit scheme could work in the UK’. 

At the event, delegates will hear from Debbie Fletcher and Tim Elliot of waste consultants Eunomia, who will suggest how a UK system could work, as well as from Martin Reiss from EPR Consulting Europe, who will outline how Germany’s deposit scheme has worked in that country for the past 10 years. 

Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland will also speak about the deposit pilot scheme, ‘Recycle and Reward’, running for the Scottish Government, and will report some of its preliminary findings.

The event concludes with workshops targeted at specific sectors to enable delegates to discuss how a deposit scheme could affect their sectors, the environment, the economy, and society.

Members signing up to the UK Deposit Alliance are invited to submit information, ideas and arguments for dissemination and feedback. 

Speaking of the launch, Samantha Harding, CPRE’s Stop the Drop Campaign Manager, said: “With millions of drinks containers made from finite resources sold every year in the UK, many of which end up as litter on land and at sea, we should do everything we can to capture them for recycling. We need people to know these containers are valuable, not to be freely discarded. 

“A small deposit on each container has been shown to work well in other countries, creating jobs and keeping our countryside, towns and seas cleaner – why can’t we do it here?” 

Advocates of DRS 

The topic of container deposit schemes is one that has historically divided the industry. Advocates for the scheme point to increased recycling rates and improved recyclate quality, while opponents cite detrimental impacts to kersbide collections, increased fraud, and consumer confusion. 

Several countries and regions, including South Australia, have adopted DRSs, that ask consumers to pay a deposit when buying a drink in a recyclable container, which is then refunded when returned. 

CPRE has long advocated the introduction of a UK-wide scheme, with its 2010 report ‘Have we got the bottle?’ recommending that the UK government introduce a nationwide DRS to combat litter and improve recycling take up. 

The report found that a UK system could cost around £84 million to implement, £700 million per year to run, and could save local authorities around £160 million, as well as reduce the cost of cleaning up litter by around £1.2 billion. 

Further, CPRE says that implementing a UK-wide scheme could lead to 3,000-4,300 full-time equivalent jobs being created across the country. 

Opponents of DRS 

However, responding to the launch of the UK Deposit Alliance, Jane Bickerstaffe, Director of The Industry Council for research on Packaging & the Environment (INCPEN), said that education and law enforcement was a better method of boosting recycling and reducing litter: “We want to work with others to tackle all litter and promote recycling. Littering is the result of careless or thoughtless behaviour. The way to tackle litter is by education, cleaning and law enforcement. This is a far more effective way than a deposit scheme. 

“Encouraging use of existing kerbside and recycling collection schemes also makes good environmental and business sense.”

INCPEN added that deposits are an ‘expensive option for consumers and businesses’ and ‘discriminate against a few littered items and ignore many others’, such as ATM receipts, cigarette ends, crisp bags, and chewing gum. Instead, INCPEN suggested that manufacturers and retailers should improve street scene recycling infrastructure to enable consumers to ‘recycle on the go’, and work with local authorities to increase awareness and recycling rates. 

Read more about the CPRE and the arguments for and against deposit schemes.