Deposit Return Scheme will produce more carbon and collect less glass than improved kerbside scheme, report says

Deposit Return Scheme will produce more carbon and collect less glass than improved kerbside scheme, report says

December 8, 2021
British Glass raises serious concerns that the UK Government’s Deposit Return Scheme proposals will have a detrimental impact on closed loop glass recycling

A new report shows that the planned deposit return scheme will produce millions of tonnes more carbon and collect less glass than an improved kerbside scheme.

The independent report published today by the consulting team at Reconomy Group company, Valpak for British Glass has shown that recycling glass packaging through an improved, consistent kerbside scheme already planned for 2023 is better for the environment than a deposit return scheme, saving over two million tonnes more CO₂ by 2035 (11% per annum), as well as achieving a higher collection rate of 90%.

While a DRS works for some packaging materials like plastic and aluminium cans, the findings of this report show the best solution for collecting and, importantly, recycling glass packaging is to collect all glass packaging at the kerbside through extended producer responsibility* and an improved, consistent kerbside collection programme and not through a DRS. The headline findings of the report are:

  • A good kerbside recycling model for glass packaging will deliver 11% more carbon savings than including glass in a DRS – that’s over two million tonnes of CO₂ saved by 2035.
  • An improved, consistent kerbside scheme would lead to “a collection rate of close to 90% of [all] glass packaging placed on the market across both drinks containers and all other types of glass packaging” (compared with DRS which anticipates a collection rate of just 85% but is limited to drinks containers only).
  • Government’s own data suggests that the implementation of a DRS for drinks bottles is likely “to reduce the collection rate at the kerbside for the remaining glass [food] packaging”, such as jam jars and condiment bottles that make up nearly a third of all glass packaging.

Speaking following publication of the report, British Glass’ Chief Executive Dave Dalton said:

“Today’s report confirms yet again what the glass industry has been saying all along, a Deposit Return Scheme is the wrong solution for recycling glass packaging in the UK.

“Including glass bottles in a DRS will lead to over two million more tonnes of CO₂ in our atmosphere. Perversely, we have a situation where we could have a green policy that is actually worse for the environment and a system that would split glass food and beverage packaging into two waste streams, to the detriment of both. Not only would this reduce the amount and the quality of recycled material available to be used again in new glass containers bottles, it would also, as international evidence has shown, lead to more plastic packaging on the market. 

“We already have a convenient solution to improving glass recycling, and it’s at our doorsteps. The British public are already great at recycling their glass at home so instead of including glass packaging in a damaging and complex DRS, we want to see more glass recycled through enhanced household collections under extended producer responsibility and consistent collections – achieving a 90% recycling rate. Only this will create a truly circular economy for glass packaging.”

*an extended producer responsibility scheme will see producers become fully responsible for the full cost of managing packaging once it becomes waste. The scheme will incentivise producers to create packaging that is easy to recycle and is set to come into effect in 2023.

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Notes To Editors:

  • A summary of the Valpak Consulting’s report findings can be found here.
  • The glass sector is committed to achieving a collection rate of 90% but collections alone will not deliver the best environmental outcomes for glass recycling. A remelt target is vital, and the sector supports an 80% obligated remelt target by 2030 to drive forward greater bottle to bottle recycling. The glass industry is the only industry asking for more obligated targets, not less, because it firmly believes that to create the best recycling system for glass packaging, one that is best for the environment, glass must remain as part of Extended Producer Responsibility, not a damaging Deposit Return Scheme.
  • British Glass has consistently called on governments to keep glass recycling at our kerbside as part of its Recycle it Right campaign. Further information, and resources, are available here.
  • The report also acknowledges the need for obligated businesses under EPR to cover the cost of collecting litter. However, it is reasonable to assume that by achieving a c.90% glass collection rate, less glass will become litter.
  • British Glass’ CEO, Dave Dalton, has previously written on the risks of forcing glass into a Deposit Return Scheme putting recycling into reverse (here), the successes of glass recycling in Wales (here) and why the Scottish Government was wrong to include glass in its scheme proposals (here).
  • The design of a Deposit Return Scheme, Extended Producer Responsibility and consistent collections were consulted on by governments earlier in the year. A UK Government response is expected to these consultations in early 2022.