Deposit return scheme: Government set to tax glass and plastic bottles

Consumers in England would be have their deposit returned if they recycle containers

(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The Government has proposed a deposit return scheme for all single-use drink containers and cans to boost recycling.

Consumers in England could end up paying a tax of up to 22p on glass and plastic bottles and steel and aluminum cans under a scheme to be introduced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, subject to consultation. But the tax would be repaid if the containers are returned for recycling.

Fees would vary depending on the size of the bottle or can.

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“The plans may involve a network of reverse vending machines, where people could insert their bottles - plastic, glass and metal - and be reimbursed,” The Daily Telegraph reports. Similar programmes exist in several European countries.

“It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled,” Gove said. “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.”

Just 43% of the 13 billion plastic bottles sold each year in the UK are currently recycled. The rest end up incinerated, sent to landfills or discarded as litter.

Similar recycling schemes, which operate in 38 other countries, have increased recycling rates to more than 90%, The Guardian reports.

The plan is a “major victory for environmental campaigners who pressured the Government to act in the wake of Blue Planet II’s expose on plastic waste in the oceans”, says the London Evening Standard.

Samantha Harding, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said she was “thrilled that we will finally see the many benefits a deposit system will bring to England, not least the absence of ugly drinks containers in our beautiful countryside”.

“What's significant is that producers will now pay the full costs of their packaging, reducing the burden on the taxpayer and setting a strong precedent for other schemes where the polluter pays,” she added.

Although this proposal was welcomed by several environmental groups, some consumers were more conflicted.

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