However, data from Europe suggests that this is the best future
Drink containers that are not recycled are an enormous problem within the UK. A study conducted by Planet Patrol, a non-profit organization, revealed that the drinks industry is responsible for more than three-quarters of the waste found in the UK between the years 2020-2021. These items included glass and plastic containers, cans of drinks made of metal lids, and single-use cups.
This is a problem. It takes years for litter to decay, which can cause damage to habitats and wildlife, and the process of cleaning it up can be expensive. Cleaning up streets costs the UK taxpayers an estimated PS1 billion every year.
The Scottish government has suggested the idea of a deposit return program. Customers will pay 20p for a deposit each time they purchase drinks in an individual-use container. It is returned when the empty can or bottle is returned. Scottish drinks containers would require unique labels and monitoring.
However, the scheme is now threatened. The UK administration is unlikely to consent to the exemption from trade needed to allow trade regulations in Scotland to differ from those in most of the UK. Also, some critics say that a deposit return program could challenge smaller businesses in a highly competitive market because of the cost of dealing with returns and registration to the scheme.
However, similar programs have been implemented in different European countries, stopping vast amounts of trash from entering the natural environment. The deposit return schemes allow determining how effective an approach they are and offer a potential route to be implemented within the UK.
Evidence of Europe
The deposit return system designed for glass containers in Finland was established in the 1950s. The system is still operating, with plastic drink containers over the last 20 years. The program is run entirely by the private sector, with 5,000 recycling machines for plastic containers across the country in hotels, shops, offices, restaurants, and schools.
When a consumer purchases the drink from a bottle or a can, they must pay 15-40 cents, based on the material the container is made of. The containers are later reused or recycled. Reused when they are returned.
Nearly every can and bottle of any size in Finland is recycled during the program. In 202h, residents recycled 94% of aluminum containers (out of 1.4 billion sold) and 92% of bottles (out of 531 million). In contrast, only 82 percent or 57 percent was recycled within the UK and the US, respectively.
Norway has attained an even higher recycled rate of 97 97%. Norway’s deposit return strategy is complemented by the addition of an ecological tax, which is levied on bottle manufacturers. It amounts to NOK 6.46 (PS0.50) for each glass or metal container, as well as NOK 3.91 (PS0.30) in the case of plastic products. Manufacturers must recycle more than 95 percent of their containers to avoid paying the tax.
Plastic bottles typically become “downcycled” into other items, such as fleece materials. However, the tax has prompted manufacturers of plastic bottles in Norway to make them more recyclable by using more uniform and less toxic materials. The efforts have included using approved bottle tops, adhesives, and labels that are simpler to remove. The recycled plastic quality in Norway is so excellent that the bottles recycled from them can be used to make new bottles.
Recycling schemes for plastics across Europe have also provided social benefits. The Finnish system allows customers to pick up their deposit and give the money to charities. In Berlin, those who do not want to return their empty bottles to retailers can put them in bins that others can pick up and get rewarded.