Resource Use

School plastic bottle deposit scheme collects 60,000 bottles

A pilot deposit return scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles has collected 60,000 in four months from reverse vending machines (RVMs) installed in 16 schools.

Greenredeem is a behaviour change incentive scheme that offers rewards for people getting involved in green programmes. Participants can earn points for pledging and reporting eco-friendly actions, such as saving water or recycling; these points can then be redeemed for vouchers or donated to charity.

In January, the organisation launched its DRS trial in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) to examine the part schools can play in boosting plastic bottle recycling rates. 16 schools signed up to have RVMs installed on site, where students and staff can hand in used plastic bottles; the schools receive five pence per bottle. The waste bottles are collected and sorted by Grundon Waste Management (Greenredeem’s parent company) and reprocessed into recycled plastic pellets by Lincolnshire-based Cleantech.

School plastic bottle deposit scheme collects 60,000 bottles
Bottles are returned through a reverse vending machine to receive points.
Reaching the 60,000-bottle milestone, Greenredeem has  announced plans to roll out the pilot to a further nine schools in the region. Matthew Ball, Greenredeem’s Managing Director, said: “By creating a closed loop system for plastic bottle recycling that benefits all stakeholders we believe that this model can make a significant contribution to increasing the capture rate and in turn reduce the number of plastic bottles that are thrown away and not recycled.”

Plastic pollution charity Plastic Oceans Foundation UK is a partner in the trial, providing educational resources for schools, with an e-learning portal offering lesson plans and classroom activities based around plastic waste and recycling. Natasha Rutherford, Marketing and Comms Manager at Plastic Oceans, said: “Plastic is an incredible
material which in a matter of decades has completely transformed the way we live. It is not the enemy; it is in fact our attitudes towards plastic that are. We must educate the next generation to understand the importance of our oceans and to find a way to live sustainably with plastics.

“The combination of education with the scheme and targeted messaging to promote reduce, reuse, recycle alongside the collection is imperative, and a powerful tool for instigating behaviour change.”

DRS on the horizon

The results of the trial come just a week after the government consultation into the feasibility of an English – and potentially UK-wide – DRS came to a close. The consultation asked stakeholders about different DRS options, including whether the scheme should cover only ‘on the go’ items like the standard 500ml plastic drinks bottles, or whether it should be an ‘all in’ model that would accept a wider range of sizes and materials, including glass, steel and aluminium containers.

Responses to the consultation, one of four launched after the publication of the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, suggest many stakeholders are unconvinced of the merits of a DRS, particularly the ‘all in’ model. There remain fears that a DRS could negatively impact local authority collection services, as material currently collected at the kerbside could be diverted into the DRS, resulting in a loss of revenue for councils.

In a letter sent to Environment Secretaries in England, Scotland and Wales, 46 signatories from across the packaging value chain stated that they don’t envisage a DRS being necessary if other proposed reforms are successful – including changes to the packaging producer responsibility system, which would see producers pay 100 per cent of the costs of managing their waste packaging.

In a similar vein, the Resource Association, a trade body for the UK recycling and secondary materials industry, has stated that it sees a DRS as a ‘reform too far’, one that should only be implemented if other changes fail to improve recycling rates. The Association expressed concerns that government does not fully understand the potential interactions between all the reforms proposed in the Resources and Waste Strategy. These positions were echoed by the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), which added that a DRS system on top of the kerbside recycling system could cause confusion among the public.

Greenredeem will publish the full results of its pilot later in 2019 and will present the evidence to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to feed into ongoing DRS discussions.

For more information about the pilot, visit Greenredeem's website.

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