Evidence shows glass in Deposit Return Schemes drives increase in plastic

Evidence shows glass in Deposit Return Schemes drives increase in plastic

October 28, 2019
Serious concerns are being raised over proposals to include glass bottles in the forthcoming Scottish deposit return scheme for drinks containers.

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(1), 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(2).

The current plans also risk dealing a body blow to existing kerbside 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 kerbside and bottle-bank glass recycling.”

The shift to plastic as experienced in other countries is because of the higher cost of processing glass associated with this type of scheme. In fact, including glass doubles the cost of a deposit return scheme(3). Zero Waste Scotland, the government funded body responsible for delivering the DRS scheme have acknowledged that including glass will increase costs by around £25m per year(4). Glass industry figures predict this to be significantly higher at around 2 to 3 times this figure.

Glass in a recycling deposit return scheme also leads to other problems. A recent study(5) of Croatia’s deposit return scheme which includes glass, revealed that consumers are incentivised to buy larger packs to lessen the cost of purchase, since the deposit is a fixed rate irrespective of the size of pack. This makes it cheaper to buy large bottles as opposed to several small bottles and led to an increase in the sale of plastic packaging in the beer sector– as larger containers sizes typically favour plastic bottles. Any move to larger pack sizes for alcohol, such as seen in Croatia, could threaten Scotland’s recent hard-won battle to achieve the lowest alcohol consumption in the country in 25 years(6).

Worryingly, a quarter(7) 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 4 times more expensive than a ‘polluter pays’ type scheme, while delivering just a third of the benefit”.

A UK-wide polluter pays scheme (known as Extended Producer Responsibility) is due to be introduced in 2023. Industry experts say that this is a much better way to collect more glass. The system, where businesses who use packaging are responsible financially for how it is managed when it becomes waste, is expected to generate the funding needed to further improve glass recycling at the kerbside and via bottle banks.

Dalton added:

“British Glass and the Scottish Government share the same vision of even greater glass recycling. That's why we are in discussions with Zero Waste Scotland about a simpler, more convenient and cost-effective proposal for glass."

For more information on the deposit return scheme, visit the Recycle More page.

/ends.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Recycling DRS in Scotland, Oakdene Hollins, September 2019, https://www.britglass.org.uk/sites/default/files/Recycling%20DRS%20in%20Scotland_OHL%20report_Final.pdf  
  2. The Senate opposes the deposit of plastic bottles, Les Echoes, September 2019, https://www.lesechos.fr/industrie-services/energie-environnement/le-senat-soppose-a-la-consigne-des-bouteilles-en-plastique-1132712
  3. Recycling DRS in Scotland, Oakdene Hollins, September 2019, https://www.britglass.org.uk/sites/default/files/Recycling%20DRS%20in%20Scotland_OHL%20report_Final.pdf  
  4. Deposit Return Scheme for Scotland: BRIA, July 2019, https://www.gov.scot/publications/deposit-return-scheme-scotland-full-business-regulatory-impact-assessment/pages/3/
  5. Recycling DRS in Scotland, Oakdene Hollins, September 2019, https://www.britglass.org.uk/sites/default/files/Recycling%20DRS%20in%20Scotland_OHL%20report_Final.pdf  
  6. Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland's Alcohol Strategy (MESAS), NHS Health Scotland, June 2019, http://www.healthscotland.scot/health-topics/alcohol/monitoring-and-evaluating-scotlands-alcohol-strategy-mesas
  7. Glass Recycling in Scotland – Consumer Research, Toluna, June 2019, https://www.britglass.org.uk/sites/default/files/Consumer%20Research%20June%202019%20-%20Glass%20Recycling%20in%20Scotland%20.pdf
  8. About British Glass

As the representative body for the UK industry, British Glass communicates the sector’s value and interests – as well as fostering the collaboration and innovation – to secure a thriving, sustainable future for glass. British Glass helps members companies from across the glass supply chain to work constructively with industry and government stakeholders.