HAS WESTMINSTER BOTTLED IT?
Imagine getting paid to recycle. Sounds like a dream, right? At first glance, the government’s deposit return scheme for England and Northern Ireland may seem right up every Refilla’s alley. If we take a closer look at the plan (especially compared to the scheme in Scotland), could the government be a lot more ambitious? Let’s dish the dirt…
So, how could the Deposit Return Scheme work? In theory, from 2025, supermarkets up and down the country would have “reverse vending machines” where bottles + cans could be returned for cold hard cash. Scotland is years ahead, aiming to go live on the 16th August (if they get their ducks in a row with helping small businesses through the transition) for all recyclable materials – plastic, steel, aluminium, and glass.
But Scotland’s speedier setup of the programme isn’t the only thing ruffling feathers in Westminster. The UK government has bottled it at the final hurdle, and decided not to include one of the most common recyclable materials… glass.
Why is this an issue? The deposit return scheme is only set to take bottles and cans. If you think of the 26 million tonnes of waste produced in the UK each year, 2.5 million tonnes of that is plastic. And of the 2.5 million tonnes only 7.5% of that is plastic bottles. So, already, in terms of the % of the UK's total waste that is getting recycled using the deposit return scheme - it’s already pretty low. By excluding glass bottles, that % drops *even* lower.
Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme team predicts that, despite the already high recycling rates for glass, it will be able to up the number of glass containers collected by 53,000 tonnes per year. Plus the collection methods that they use as part of the deposit scheme will help to separate glass by colour before transportation and crushing, which will help to recycle glass back into bottles (which isn’t the case with traditional pavement-pick-up recycling).
With government officials themselves admitting that recycling alone isn’t enough to tackle the UK’s throwaway habits (flashback to Boris Johnson in October 2021 explaining to school children that recycling "doesn't work" and "is not the answer"), you’d assume they’d be doing everything they can to make their recycling scheme as strong as possible. And whilst any deposit return scheme is probably better than no deposit return scheme, is excluding glass a massive missed opportunity?
Either way, cutting down on producing the waste in the first place is much easier than trying to recycle it afterwards. And although news of new recycling schemes is always a good thing (especially in terms of changing consumer mentality and helping us to realise how much waste we’re producing)… we can’t let it take our minds away from stopping the issue at the source.
The UK collectively throws away 468 million cleaning spray bottles every year (which won’t be collected as part of the return scheme). When you also take into account laundry and dishwashing product packaging, as well as cloths and sponges… the waste produced by the cleaning industry is pretty bonkers.
It’s time to Rethink What’s Under Your Sink. Our Things have all of the cleaning power you need, whilst being truly planet-positive – meaning you can keep your home (and our planet) clean.