Evidence shows glass in Deposit Return Schemes drives increase in plastic

3 November 2019

Serious concerns are being raised over proposals to include glass bottles in the forthcoming Scottish deposit return scheme for drinks containers.

The Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) due to be introduced in Scotland following new legislation, is aimed at making it easier for everyone to recycle their used drinks containers. However, waste and drinks industry experts say the inclusion of glass bottles in the scheme is a mistake and will lead to unintended environmental consequences.

Similar recycling deposit return schemes in other countries such as Germany, Finland and Croatia, which have included glass, have led to brands and consumers making a dramatic shift away from glass in favour of plastic packaging for their products.

This shift towards plastic, which saw a 60% increase in consumption in Germany, was the critical reason for a proposed DRS recently being scrapped in France.

The current plans also risk dealing a body blow to existing curbside and bottle-bank recycling systems which together currently collect 67% of all glass bottles and jars for recycling in the UK.

Dave Dalton, CEO of British Glass, the glass industry trade body comments: “We support a Deposit Return Scheme that significantly increases recycling and the reuse of resources, but under the existing plans, which include glass, this is not the case. There is a real danger that the proposed scheme in its current form will become counter-productive, leading to an actual increase in single-use plastic and threaten the viability of current curbside and bottle-bank glass recycling.”

Worryingly, a quarter of Scottish consumers say they won’t be returning their glass bottles to collect the deposit. If kerbside glass collections also decline due to reduced participation as predicted, this means more glass ending up in landfill and less back in the glass furnaces making new bottles and jars.

“A deposit return scheme is an economically inefficient, high risk, complex and difficult way to collect glass” explains Dalton. “The Scottish government’s own figures show that, as it stands, the DRS with glass will also be nearly four times more expensive than a ‘polluter pays’ type scheme, while delivering just a third of the benefit."


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