Fury as plastic bottle deposit scheme is delayed for three years

Environmental campaigners yesterday accused ministers of shirking their responsibility after plans to increase bottle recycling were delayed.

A deposit return scheme to encourage Britons to bring back bottles, cans and other containers has been put back until 2024.

While insisting the plans would go ahead, the Government also said it would consult on the ‘continued appetite’ for the scheme following the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers claim the delay is because of Covid-19, but it has dismayed environmental groups, who called for urgent action. Similar schemes already operate successfully in Europe and the UK is under pressure to catch up before it hosts the Cop26 UN climate conference later this year.

A deposit return scheme to encourage Britons to bring back bottles, cans and other containers has been put back until 2024 (stock image)

A deposit return scheme to encourage Britons to bring back bottles, cans and other containers has been put back until 2024 (stock image)

A deposit return scheme to encourage Britons to bring back bottles, cans and other containers has been put back until 2024 (stock image)

In 2018 then-environment secretary Michael Gove said there were plans to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) as early as 2020. A year later, the Government pledged that it would be brought in for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2023.

But according to a consultation for the programme which was published yesterday, the scheme will not be introduced until 2024 at the earliest. 

Environment minister Rebecca Pow faced anger from MPs on the environmental audit committee over the delay.

Yesterday she told them: ‘The intention originally… was that we would be aiming for 2023, but we have been hit by the pandemic and this last year has been rather an unusual year that has affected how offices and all the rest of it operate.

In 2018 then-environment secretary Michael Gove said there were plans to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) as early as 2020

In 2018 then-environment secretary Michael Gove said there were plans to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) as early as 2020

In 2018 then-environment secretary Michael Gove said there were plans to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) as early as 2020 

‘The timeline is likely to move to 2024 because with the best will in the world measures that will enable the DRS to be set up are being brought up in the Environment Bill [which], because of the pandemic, has been delayed and slowed.’

But campaigners said Covid should not be used as an excuse and claimed it was ’embarrassing’ that the UK was lagging behind other countries.

Tom Fyans from CPRE, the countryside charity, said the public wanted to see action on the waste crisis. ‘New research shows that around eight billion drinks containers are landfilled, littered or burnt every year,’ he said.

‘Despite all this, the Government looks set to delay a deposit return scheme until the end of 2024 – essentially shirking their responsibility and waiting for a new government to show any leadership on the issue.’

 

Sam Chetan-Welsh, political campaigner at Greenpeace, said taking years to introduce such a scheme, which other countries have had for decades, was ’embarrassing’.

‘This is not the action of a Government that is serious about tackling plastic pollution, and is nowhere near world-leading,’ he said.

‘Further delay means billions more plastic and glass bottles and cans will be dumped or burned.’

Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner Camilla Zerr said: ‘The deposit return scheme will boost recycling, cut waste, and help reduce the flow of plastic pollution pouring into our environment, so there is no justification in delaying it.

‘Ministers must stand strong in the face of industry lobbying because the deposit return scheme is urgently needed. The Government shouldn’t bottle it now.’

The Daily Mail has long called for new measures to encourage recycling through its Turn The Tide On Plastic campaign. 

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: ‘Through our world-leading Environment Bill, we are transforming the way we deal with waste.’ 

He said the new changes would ensure more of what people consume is recycled and reused. 

‘Latte levy’ to help firms recycle cups 

Customers face paying a ‘latte levy’ on their coffee under a new recycling tax, according to Government plans. 

Ministers yesterday launched a consultation on plans to introduce recycling targets for coffee cups, and to make producers pay the cost of recycling packaging. 

It would mean materials that are difficult to recycle, such as those used in coffee cups, would cost more, and companies would be forced to pass the costs on to consumers. 

The document highlights that there is limited recycling of coffee cups and other takeaway packaging because the costs are too high. Ministers say there is ‘little economic incentive’ to recycle the packaging. 

They have yet to decide how much would be added to the cost of a cup of coffee under the new tax. ‘There is support for a target to apply to other types of fibre-based composite packaging which can also be more difficult to recycle,’ the consultation says. 

‘Government therefore proposes to introduce recycling targets for a new category of packaging.’ 

This would include disposable drink cups, sandwich boxes and food and drink cartons. 

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