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Warning deposit scheme could 'cannibalise' kerbside collections

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Concerns have been raised about the impact a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans could have on councils’ kerbside collections.

Under plans due to be unveiled by environment secretary Michael Gove later today, the deposit return scheme (DRS) is expected to cover single-use glass and plastic bottles, and steel and aluminium cans.

A DRS will see consumers pay a deposit on certain products but they will be able to get money back if they return the container.

Exactly how much consumers will be charged is not yet known and will form part of a consultation on the scheme.

The government’s voluntary and economic incentives working group said in a report last year that “more work needs to be done to assess the implications and impacts of a DRS before one is introduced”.

Carole Taylor, chair of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac), said: “The evidence so far for the UK has not shown how a general DRS can be undertaken without cannibalising council kerbside material.

“Local authorities provide comprehensive collection schemes for the materials that a DRS would target, and our first step should be to put funds into these from producers to increase kerbside performance even further.

“If the public really have an appetite for DRS then it needs to be one that targets on the go material and helps address the litter problem that local authorities spend £700m each year dealing with, valuable funds that could be better utilised on other local services.”

Larac has called for a fully funded and comprehensive impact assessment on the implications of any DRS on current kerbside collection systems, ahead of the consultation process.

“Without such an impact assessment Larac has concerns any subsequent consultation will be flawed and could mean decreased income and efficiencies for councils already struggling with years of government funding cuts,” a Larac statement said.

Martin Tett (Con), Local Government Association environment spokesman, said a DRS “has the potential to revolutionise how we recycle”.

But he added: “If these proposals are to be a success, it’s essential that they work alongside kerbside recycling and are not seen as an alternative to it. The forthcoming consultation should ensure that these new proposals do not impact on local recycling.

“With various pressures affecting kerbside recycling, from China’s recent decision to not take waste from this country to funding pressures affecting all of local government, this consultation is an opportunity to renew our relationship with recycling and ensure kerbside collections are put on a firm financial footing.”

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