People will soon be able to get paid for recycling plastic bottles and cans at ‘reverse’ vending machines in supermarkets and shops.
The new plans proposed by the government will see a deposit return scheme introduced in England. It would enable residents to take qualifying bottles and cans to machines in shops and receive a payment per item.
While a rate is yet to be confirmed, officers at one North West council say it is ‘likely’ to be 20p per container, the Local Democracy Service reports. The scheme is already up and running in Europe with nearly all German supermarkets containing specialised machines for the task.
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In the UK it would apply only to plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate – known as ‘PET’, as well as steel and aluminium cans of sizes between 50ml and three litres. Glass bottles are not included in England, although they are in Scotland and Wales.
A start date for the scheme has been set as October 1, 2025. Containers that can be accepted would have an identification mark, such as a bar code or QR code, that can be read at the return point.
Retailers selling ‘in scope’ bottles and cans would be obliged to host a return vending machine, but would receive a handling fee to compensate them for costs incurred in hosting a return point. However smaller retailers could apply for an exemption to get out of hosting one.
If products that could be returned at the machines end up in the normal recycling stream, local authorities could potentially be able to separate out the containers and redeem the deposit on them – however bosses warn this would be ‘technically challenging’. Responding to the government’s plans, David Taylor, executive director at GMCA Waste and Resources said he welcomes the scheme ‘in principle’ but ‘has some concerns’.
He added: “Glass bottles will not be included in England but will be in Scottish and Welsh deposit return schemes. It’s frustrating that the relevant governments couldn’t agree a universal approach at a time when the national resources and waste strategy is focused on creating a more consistent recycling scheme across the country.
“This is just going to add to the confusion and adds a layer of complexity for drinks suppliers who supply retailers in each country. It will undoubtedly impact on councils recycling rates, diverting material away from kerbside collections and impact on the flow of materials through the materials recovery facility.”
Mr Taylor added that as the largest waste disposal authority in the country, the impact of the introduction of the return scheme is ‘likely to be more disruptive here than in other parts of England’ and he urged that it be phased in once other national changes to recycling collections had also been introduced.
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