Glass industry reiterates concerns over ‘all-in’ DRS

Glass recycling company Recresco has reiterated concerns from the glass industry over the mooted ‘all-in’ UK deposit return scheme (DRS) for beverage containers, warning it could have a “negative rather than a positive impact” on the UK recycling.

A proposed ‘all-in’ DRS would see a redeemable cash deposit placed on all plastic bottles, aluminium and steel cans and glass bottles ranging from 50 millilitres in size to three litres.

A DRS was originally proposed in the Resources and Waste Strategy and the Environment Bill is set to provide the legal basis for its creation, slated for 2023.

An ‘all-in’ scheme, which targets all containers as opposed to just those most commonly consumed ‘on the go’, has wide support, with a cross-party group of 20 MPs submitting an Early Day Motion last week calling for an ‘all-in’ scheme, while a Populus poll found that 84 per cent of the British public support such a scheme.

However, the UK glass industry has raised concerns over such a design, which would see England, Wales and Northern Ireland adopt the same approach as Scotland, which will be introducing an ‘all-in’ DRS in 2022.

An image of glass bottlesTim Gent, Director at Recresco, warned that an ‘all-in’ DRS that included glass could negatively impact on the recycling of glass at the kerbside and could push consumers to purchase larger plastic bottles for reasons of cost if a flat deposit were to be placed on all containers.

Gent said: “DRS is unnecessary for glass and is likely to be counterproductive as well as damaging to the environment in the long term.

“The DRS is not required for glass because we already achieve the government set targets by way of the existing PRN (Packaging Recovery Note) system. This is already a proven system in place that has successfully met glass recycling targets consistently since its introduction. We have been calling for the PRN system to be updated and for targets to be increased for some time. By increasing the remelt/aggregate differential, we can ensure glass is recycled effectively so that the vast majority of glass containers are remelted into sustainable packaging.

“The existing infrastructure has been designed to cope with glass at existing levels. If a DRS system removes a large volume of glass,  it will be less viable to include glass within the collection rounds or the MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) where 67 per cent of collected glass is already being recycled.

“The DRS also has the potential to damage the environment as kerbside collections will continue for the non-DRS material but households will need to take their glass to a DRS station. A flat deposit could result in consumers opting for larger plastic containers in place of glass. This would obviously be counterproductive to any environmental agenda. The DRS may be a positive step for other materials but glass does not need a new solution and this change could end up having a negative rather than positive impact on the UK’s waste problem.”

Dave Dalton, CEO of British Glass, also recently expressed concerns over the inclusion of glass in a prospective DRS, saying: “A DRS is great where existing systems do not exist or function poorly; but when it comes to glass that is not the reality. A DRS will significantly compromise the recovery of jars, splitting glass recycling into two separate systems – which is ultimately detrimental to both.

“We all want to see more recycling, but when it comes to glass, we need to recycle it right. This means improving our current system of household and bottle bank collections to create a truly circular economy and is backed by the whole glass supply chain.”

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