The plans could – if approved – see a price hike on the likes of takeaway coffees, as the Government forces consumers to pay a “monetary deposit” which they would then get back once the item is recycled.
The new scheme would be a forced bottle deposit essentially.
Costing consumers money if they do not recycle the container they bought their drink in.
The Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy was last updated 11 years ago and now ministers are working out a new way forward which is likely to see a broad number of changes to the way households around the country work.
But how would the bottle deposits work?
This is where the controversy comes in. Although these plans have been announced, there has been no specific detail on just how this would be the case.
Around the world bottle deposits are a well-used way of encouraging recycling.
There are 40 countries and 21 US states with some kind of deposit return scheme currently in operation.
A small amount of money, ranging from around 8p to 22p, is added to the price of a drink which is then given back once the item is recycled.
How the items are recycled varies greatly though.
In some areas, shops have special drop off areas while in others non-manned machines named ‘reverse vending machines’ have been installed.
How it works in the UK still has a long way to be finalised, but obviously there would be more of a cost to the vending machines route.
Environmental consultants Eunomia estimated one machine could cost £30,000 to buy, £2,000 to install and another £2,700 a year to operate.
Ministers want to introduce a blanket one-fits-all rule to items which are accepted as recycling-worthy
What are the other measures being put in place?
At present, there is a postcode lottery approach to recycling in the UK. Depending on where you live depends on which items are accepted as recycling-worthy, and how often your recycling is taken.
Ministers want this to change, instead introducing a blanket one-fits-all rule to eradicate any confusion.
But how will this work?
Under the Government’s plans, all homes in England will be provided by local councils with separate collections for food waste while forcing companies to introduce labels on packaging to make it expressly clear on what they can and can’t recycle.
Local councils will also be encouraged to provide an extra collection for the food waste, for which there is currently no one-size-fits-all approach.
In England only 35 percent of households are obliged to put food waste in a caddy separately from other rubbish. In Scotland 56 percent do, while in Wales the figure is 100 percent.
Ministers are also looking to ban the charge currently doled out to households for the collection of garden waste. This is because if greenery ends up in landfill it produces methane – a powerful and deadly greenhouse gas.
The then Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:
“Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster, to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Together we can move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource."
When will this happen?
Well, this is very much a ‘how long is a piece of string’ type question. None of these plans are finalised. And considering this will take into account budgets of local authorities all over the country, the consultation process is likely to be a long one. But the Government does have high expectations and targets to hit in terms of recycling.
So how will it affect me?
Again, nothing yet finalised, but under the draft plans put out there, in a number of ways.
If the plans for food waste caddies goes ahead, you could find your main rubbish collections will become less frequent.
Plus, if you’re buying a bottle of water, or a coffee, that price may be elevated as shops would be forced to add on an undisclosed amount as the ‘deposit’. You would then get this amount back when the item is recycled.
So, what’s next?
The Government’s motto on this is “We must stop throwing so much away, because there is no away” and it is a good one to remember.
But campaigners say many small details have been left out of the policy.
Libby Peake from the Green Alliance cautiously backed the plans, but said consumers need more information on just how this will work.
Will there be more recycling points? Easier ways to recycle the odd bottle here and there? How will councils afford yet more frequent, and more varied, bin collections on dwindling budgets?
“There is a lot of good in the policies – it is on the right lines. But we do need to see the exact detail on just how things will work.”
She also raised concerns that the consultation plans show that large drinks bottles will be excluded from the deposit return scheme, saying she believes it needs to be “all in.”
Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman also raised concerns on how plans would work “in reality”, saying:
“You can’t aim to prevent fly-tipping without ending the cuts to councils. And we need a plan for stopping the export of UK recycling and waste plastics to countries where they currently end up in landfill or polluting our oceans.”