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Sustainable recycling: The rise of the deposit return scheme

February 17, 2024
Sustainability

Deposit return schemes (DRS) are gaining traction worldwide as a practical solution to combat environmental pollution and encourage recycling. These schemes incentivise consumers to return empty bottles for various rewards, effectively reducing waste and promoting a circular economy. With growing environmental concerns and a push for circular economy practices, DRS has emerged as a promising solution to mitigate waste and promote recycling. FoodBev Media’s Rafaela Sousa explores.

Government commitment

This increasing recognition is evident in governmental initiatives worldwide. In January 2023, the UK government revealed plans to introduce a DRS in 2025 to improve the recycling of plastic bottles and cans. The DRS aims to achieve an 85% reduction in discarded beverage containers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland within three years of its launch.

As part of the scheme, reverse vending machines will be installed at designated sites, such as retailers, allowing people to return their bottles and receive cashback.

The introduction of the DRS was decided upon after a consultation, during which 83% of respondents were in favour of the new system.

UK environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “We want to support people who want to do the right thing to help stop damaging plastics polluting our green spaces or floating in our oceans and rivers”.

“That is why we are moving ahead using our powers from our landmark Environment Act to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for drink containers. This will provide a simple and effective system across the country that helps people reduce litter and recycle more easily, even when on the move.”

Meanwhile, the government of Scotland delayed the implementation of its DRS until at least October 2025. This was the second postponement of Scotland’s DRS, following the initial delay from March to August last year.

The delay is in response to the UK government’s refusal to agree to a full exclusion from the Internal Market Act, as stated by Scotland’s minister for circular economy, Lorna Slater.

Industry collaboration

Despite the Scottish government delaying the introduction of its DRS, supermarket chain Lidl is trialling its own bottle return scheme across 21 of its stores in Glasgow. Customers will receive a £0.5 reward for each eligible returned item.

The scheme, which began on 8 February and is running until 11 August, enables shoppers to return their empty polyethylene terephthalate plastic and aluminium beverage containers via in-store reverse vending machines.

Lidl – which is said to become the first supermarket to pilot its own bottle return scheme across an entire city – highlighted that it is expected that the pilot will recycle at least 10.5 tonnes of plastic and aluminium material each month, which will be used to create new plastic and aluminium products.

Richard Bourns, chief commercial officer at Lidl GB, said: “We’re on a mission to eliminate all unnecessary waste, and with over 95% of our own-brand packaging now recyclable, reusable or refillable we’ve been making great progress. We know that Lidl shoppers share this passion, and we hope that utilising this infrastructure, which might otherwise have been left dormant, will help to make recycling their cans and bottles even more convenient for them.”

Additionally, waste management company Biffa launched a nationwide recycling service last month for hot and cold takeaway drink cups. The company is currently offering UK mainland businesses – from cafes and restaurants to service stations and supermarkets – a “fully integrated” disposal, collection and recycling service for their used cups.

Businesses with ten or more full-time employees who sell takeaway drinks in fibre-based single-use cups will be required by law to recycle them starting in October 2025.

Soft drinks company Fraser & Neave Holdings has also been part of this effort to promote sustainability and reduce plastic waste. In November, the company, in collaboration with three other industry partners, launched a reverse vending machine pilot project in Malaysia, as it aims to drive sustainable change and encourage recycling.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has been a key player in reverse vending for many years and has been actively involved in sustainability efforts. Since introducing reversing vending in 2019, Coca-Cola has consistently partnered with Merlin Entertainments, resulting in the collection of over 100,000 plastic bottles through the implementation of reverse vending machines.

Looking ahead

As the momentum for DRS grows, the future holds promise for a sustainable world. Collaboration among governments, businesses and consumers is essential for the expansion of this initiative, ultimately strengthening its effectiveness in addressing the global waste crisis.

DRS holds the potential to transform our recycling habits, leading to a cleaner, more environmentally friendly planet.

By Rafaela Sousa

Source: foodbev.com

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