U.K.’s ‘All-In’ Deposit Return Scheme

The Association of Convenience Stores voices concerns about retailers processing returned recyclables.

July 19, 2019

LONDON—This week, Michael Gove, U.K. environmental secretary, outlined his ambitious plan to require retailers to accept all deposit-return recyclable containers. The proposal would allow customers to return plastic, glass, metal, HDPE bottles and other containers as part of the proposed deposit return scheme, with no limits on the size of the container that can be returned.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has repeatedly raised concerns about the space, cost, staff time, and hygiene and health risks associated with such an “all-in” system, especially where retailers have to take back containers manually across the till. This is the model currently being developed in Scotland.

“We are disappointed that the Secretary of State is moving towards an ‘all-in’ deposit return scheme that will place significant burdens on local shops,” said James Lowman, the association’s CEO. “Taking back glass and plastic bottles of all sizes and could present hygiene and health risks to store colleagues handling soiled and broken drinks containers and would require significant space for return machines capable of handling this breadth of packaging and storing it securely.”

ACS set out the parameters for a well-designed scheme in its submission to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ consultation on the subject earlier this year. “An all-in system is a blunt instrument that undermines the existing curbside recycling infrastructure. We urge the government to look more closely at a well-designed deposit return scheme that strategically maps the location of return points and focuses on tackling the core problem of consumers not recycling plastic containers whilst on the move,” Lowman said.

This spring, NACS, along with the Can Manufacturers Institute, released “The Value of Can and Bottle Recycling,” a guide with tips and suggestions for improving current recycling practices. The guide also provides information on how to effectively communicate the goals of the program with staff and customers, and a checklist to help retailers reduce contamination in their recycling bins.