Organisation warn of increase in plastic consumption should DRS include cans

A UK-wide deposit return scheme (DRS) including aluminium cans could result in an extra 823 million plastic bottles being produced, according to Alupro.

The not-for-profit organisation, who have 30 years’ experience in representing the UK’s aluminium packaging industry, asked 2,000 UK adults if they’d continue to buy multipacks containing cans with a 20p deposit implemented on each container – meaning a £4.80 deposit would come on top of the purchase price of a 24-can multipack, compared to the 80p deposit on the purchase of four large plastic bottles containing the same amount of liquid.

Two thirds of respondents said that they would likely switch to purchasing plastic bottles, with 51% maintaining that would still make the switch to plastic even if the deposit was halved to 10p.

Despite Alupro’s research showing a consumers would be likely to switch to plastic bottles, 78% of respondents did say that they would be able to regularly return cans and bottles to DRS collection points, thus recouping their deposit.

The system is set to be introduced into Scotland in 2021. As it stands, aluminium cans will be included in the scheme alongside plastic and glass bottles. In August, the UK Government signalled plans to introduce DRS to England, Wales and Northern Ireland – with a consultation finding that 94% were in favour of aluminium cans being introduced to the wider UK scheme.

Executive director of Alupro, Rick Hindley, said, “We are very concerned that if the same deposit fee is applied regardless of container size, it will have a significant impact on multipacks of aluminium cans. The majority of consumers buy multipacks, and these will become twice as expensive as the equivalent volume in plastic if a deposit return scheme is introduced with the same deposit fee. This would be a significant upfront cost for household budgets and, as our survey has confirmed, it will influence purchasing habits.

“However, a variable deposit fee based on the size of the container avoids changing current consumer purchasing habits.  Consumers are sophisticated enough to understand a variable deposit fee as is the norm in Scandinavian countries where deposit return schemes are well established. We urge the Scottish Government and UK Government to consider the impact of other schemes; the German drink can market is only just starting to recover following the introduction of a poorly designed deposit scheme in 2003 that all but wiped out can sales, which plummeted by 96% almost overnight. Our survey found 83% of people are concerned that a deposit return scheme could increase the consumption of plastic.  We must avoid this scenario playing out in the UK.”

Maurice Golden MSP, shadow climate change, environment, land reform secretary, commented, “We want to see an ambitious and inclusive system that works well across the whole of the UK. It is concerning that a flat deposit fee could lead to a dramatic increase in the amount of plastic being purchased and a decline in the use of aluminium. We must ensure that the deposit return scheme is well designed and does not discriminate against one material over another.”