Shoppers in England could face paying a deposit on drinks bottles and cans which is then repaid when they recycle them, under Government plans to tackle plastic waste.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said ministers would introduce a deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers such as plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans, subject to consultation.
Some countries already have similar schemes which charge an upfront deposit on drinks containers. This deposit can range from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, and it is then redeemed when the empty bottle or can is returned.
The consultation, which will take place later this year, will look at how such a scheme could work in England, alongside other measures to increase recycling.
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How will the scheme work?
At the moment, the scheme is subject to consultation, so it's unclear exactly how it will work, or indeed if it is certain to go ahead.
One way it could work is through a network of 'reverse vending machines', where you insert your plastic or glass bottle or can and the machine returns your money.
The Government will also consider other possible variants of a standard deposit scheme, including cash rewards for returning drinks containers without paying an upfront deposit.
Once a bottle or can is returned, businesses are then responsible for making sure they are effectively recycled – a move which the Government says has led to a 97% recycling rate in Germany.
The consultation will also look at other measures to increase recycling rates alongside a bottle return scheme.
Will the cost of containers increase as a result?
Until the full details of the scheme are announced it's hard to say what will happen.
If a deposit scheme was introduced, you could pay extra upfront for items such as plastic bottles, but would then get this back when you recycled them.
In other countries that have similar schemes, the cost varies depending on the item, but here are some examples of the deposits:
- Denmark – a plastic half litre bottles cost 1.5 Danish Krone (18p).
- Germany – all single-use containers, including cans, single-use glass and plastic bottles that are 100ml to three litres in volume cost €0.25 (22p).
- Netherlands – plastic bottles which are half a litre or more cost €0.25 (22p) and beer bottles cost €0.10 (9p).
- Sweden – plastic bottles that hold less than one litre cost 1 Swedish Krona (8p).
- USA – the deposit varies between states. In New York for example a $0.05 (4p) deposit is charged on plastic, metal, and glass containers that are 3.78 litres or less.
What about Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?
The consultation will only consider a deposit scheme in England.
Scotland has already announced plans for a similar scheme, and the Government says it hopes to talk to the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland and Wales about the "scope" for working together on the issue.
What does the Government say?
Gove said: "We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment – killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats.
"It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled.
"We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans."