New report shows Deposit Return Systems could save town halls across England millions of pounds a year

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 11 October 2017

Cash-strapped councils across England could save up to £35 million a year from the introduction of a deposit return system (DRS) for drinks bottles and cans, says a report launched today at the House of Commons.

© Natasha Ewins

We know from evidence around the world that deposit return systems decrease litter and increase high quality recycling. This report shows that such systems will also save local authorities money and we strongly urge the Government to introduce a DRS into England ensuring that it dovetails with any systems in Scotland and Wales.

Sue Kinsey,
Senior Pollution Policy Officer

MCS is part of the consortium of conservation, recycling and anti-litter groups who commissioned the report by waste consultants, Eunomia.

The worry that such systems could increase costs for local authorities has been a longstanding barrier to the acceptance of DRS in England, despite the fact that the Scottish Government has already announced plans to bring in a deposit system for bottles and cans, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he would look at how a scheme could be introduced in England.

But councils have raised concerns that they could lead to a reduction in local authority income as people would use the schemes to recycle the bottles and cans instead of using existing household kerbside recycling.

So to properly study any potential problems that English councils might face, MCS, Keep Britain Tidy, Surfers Against Sewage, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Reloop, together with Melissa and Stephen Murdoch, commissioned this study to see what the real costs and benefits would be.

DRS schemes aim to boost recycling of single-use glass, plastic and aluminium drinks containers by charging a deposit when people buy them, which is refunded when the container is returned to a collection point, for example at a shop.

The report, which looked at eight councils with both high and low recycling rates, found that local authorities would lose some income as there would be a reduced number of cans and bottles collected from households to sell to recyclers. But savings from having fewer containers to collect and sort, reduced levels of littering and lower charges from sending waste to landfill would create savings that outweigh the loss of revenue, Eunomia Research and Consulting said.

Across the UK, 35 million plastic bottles and 20 million aluminium cans are sold every day and many end up on beaches and in the sea where they pose a danger to wildlife and habitats.

MCS has been collecting data on the number of drinks bottles and cans found on UK beaches for almost 25 years as part of its Beachwatch programme. Over 8,000 plastic bottles were found on UK beaches during just one weekend in 2015.

Between 2014 and 2015 there was a big percentage rise in most drinks containers - plastic drinks bottles increased by over 43%, metal drinks cans by almost 29%, and drinks container caps and lids were up by over 41%. Only glass bottles went down and that was only by less than 1%

Evidence from other countries such as the US, Norway and Germany shows that the introduction of deposit schemes could raise collection rates above 90% and reduce litter.

Along with other groups MCS believes that Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, could build on the success of the plastic bag levy and the ban on microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products by announcing the introduction of a DRS in England.

Actions you can take

  1. Survey showing public support
  2. Learn about Deposit Return Systems
  3. See our map of reported bottle sightings
  4. Take your own reusable bottle out and about
  5. Join the Plastic Challenge
  6. Report your #wildbottlesighting using our form

Did you know?…

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces