Deposit refund system could save councils millions 11 October 2017
A new report published today finds that local authorities across England could save up to £35 million every year if a deposit refund system (DRS) for drinks containers was introduced in England.
 
Previously, some local authorities have expressed concerns that the introduction of a DRS would lead to a reduction in their income, as people use the scheme to recycle their bottles and cans rather than the local authorities’ kerbside recycling systems.  In response to these concerns, a consortium of ourselves, with other environmental charities, the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Reloop, commissioned researchers to look into this issue.
 
Analysis of data across eight local authorities, including those with high and low recycling rates, found that rather than losing income, the individual authorities could potentially make savings of between £60,000 and £500,000. The report finds that local authorities would lose some income as there would be a reduced number of cans and plastic bottles in the kerbside collections to sell to recyclers. However, the savings made from having fewer containers to collect and sort, as well as reduced levels of littering and reduced landfill charges will actually create savings that outweigh the loss of revenue.
 
Every day 35 million plastic bottles and 20 million aluminium cans are sold across the UK and many end up as litter, in our oceans or in landfill sites. Evidence from other countries, including the US, Norway and Germany, shows that the introduction of a simple deposit on plastic bottles and cans can raise collection rates above 90% and reduce littering.
 
The report makes recommendations for both government and local authorities on how kerbside services can be adapted to ensure that the savings resulting from a DRS are shared equally between county councils and district councils. With local authority resources under increasing pressure, these findings provide evidence that, rather than negatively affecting local authority waste services, a DRS could actually support them and reduce the costs of delivering the service, while also delivering cleaner streets and reducing the amount of plastic entering our oceans.
 
Allison Ogden-Newton, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “There is no doubt that introducing a deposit refund system would reduce littering in this country but, until now, there has been a concern that it would have a negative impact on cash-strapped councils. This report shows that in fact a DRS would create savings for local government.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.