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Using this model, beverages would be more expensive, but consumers would be reimbursed the difference by returning the plastic, glass and metal bottles: recycling rate is expected to achieve 95%

England plans to adopt a bottle return scheme to encourage recycling. Research by the local Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee found countries with deposit return schemes tended to recycle between 80% and 95% of their plastic bottles. Clients would pay more for drinks, but would receive some money back when depositing their bottles for recycling, according to the British Government. This scheme will be applied to all single-use containers of liquids, whether they are made of plastic, glass or metal.

The bottle return scheme has immensely benefitted in Norway. Currently, 95% of all plastic bottles are now recycled, compared with England’s rate of 57%. In England, about half of all the plastic bottles used in a year are water bottles. Research shows that more than 95% of the plastic bottles that are processed for recycling have been collected from households in England, which means that consumption of drinks in plastic bottles outside the home generate litter that is not, often, recycled.

How do bottle deposit schemes work?

According to BBC, there are 40 countries and 21 US states with some kind of deposit return scheme currently in operation. A small extra cost is added to the price of the drink, which is then refunded to the customer when they take it back to be recycled.

The system works two ways: first, bottles or cans are taken back to the shop they were bought from, second, a network of automated collection points known as “reverse vending machines” have been installed to collect bottles in different areas in town.

If a customer doesn’t return a bottle to the collection deposit, that money can be given to the producers, retailers, donated to charity or funneled back into running the scheme – each country has its own policy.

A billionaire initiative

Costs associated to implementation come down to how the scheme is designed. Installing costs of a network of “reverse vending machines” will differ to those attached to training existing staff in shops to handle the deposits. Environmental experts of Eunomia, a consultancy firm, estimated one machine could cost £32,000 to buy and install, and another £2,700 a year to operate.

The German experience gives us an idea of estimated costs for such initiative in the country. In 2003, an automatic return system estimated to have cost about £600m. Since then, the country spends about £700m annually for maintenance.

In the UK, this type of scheme is far from new. Since the 1960s, a money-back deposit scheme was introduced in the UK for glass bottles – but this died out with the advent of cheap plastic bottles in the 1980s, however similar schemes continue to grow today.

Content published in April 28, 2018

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