Newsflash: People in England will pay a deposit when they buy drinks bottles and cans under a new recycling deposit return scheme

Hands placing bottles in recycling bin Print publication


Defra (the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) has announced that a deposit return scheme will be introduced, subject to a consultation later this year, in a bid to increase recycling and cut waste. The consultation will look at how the scheme will work and the scope of the measures to increase recycling rates.

The government’s announcement comes in light of increasing concern over the detrimental effect plastic waste is having on the environment. UK consumers use 13 billion plastic drinks bottles every year and over 3 billion are sent to landfill, incinerated or discarded.

The scheme is expected to cover all single use drinks containers (whether plastic, glass or metal) with similar schemes already in operation in Norway, Sweden and Germany. The size of the deposit is not yet clear; in Sweden it is 8p and in Germany 22p. In Norway the scheme uses a network of ‘reverse vending machines’. Alternatively a scheme could involve a cash reward for the return of the container without a deposit.

The consultation will take into account views from producers, suppliers and consumers to make sure any system introduced works nationally. The consultation can be seen as part of a wider package of reforms to the current packaging waste system, to incentivise producers to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and to increase the amount of packaging they recycle.


The impact on producers and retailers will depend on the design of the scheme. In Germany, for example, retailers and the food & drink industry bear the costs of the system and in return businesses are allowed to keep any unclaimed deposits. In other countries the costs are passed directly onto the consumer and the deposit supports the operating system underpinning the recycling process.

It is too early to estimate the costs of the scheme. Environmental consultancy Eunomia estimate that one machine could cost up to £30,000 without taking account of installation and maintenance.

Our clients in the food and drink, retail, and waste and resources sectors, who are likely to be affected by the scheme, should consider the proposals carefully and may wish to make their views known as part of consultation process which will take place later this year.

If you require any advice or assistance on any of the points raised above, then please don’t hesitate to contact Richard Naish (Head of Food & Drink Group), Ben Sheppard (Energy and Resources) or your usual Walker Morris contact.