Criticism over failure to include glass in deposit return scheme for bottles

Recyclers will get money back for returning plastic bottles and drinks cans under a deposit return scheme but concerns have been raised about delays and failures to include glass.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland are following Scotland by announcing they will introduce the new scheme to incentivise recycling in 2025.

But critics said the three nations were acting too slowly, with Scotland planning to launch its 20p refundable rate later this year.

While Wales will follow Scotland by including glass returns, England and Northern Ireland will not.

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A sum, possibly also 20p but yet to be confirmed outside Scotland, will be added to single-use drinks containers and refunded when returned to designated sites.

Philip Dunne, who chairs the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, welcomed the scheme but said “it is disappointing to learn that the scheme will not come in until 2025, given the length of time the Government has spent pondering the issue”.

The Tory MP described the failure to include glass in England as a “missed opportunity”.

In 2019, the Conservatives’ manifesto vowed to introduce a deposit scheme “to incentivise people to recycle plastic and glass”.

Steve Hynd, from the City to Sea campaign, said: “There is a pattern emerging in this Government’s approach of delays, half-measures, and broken promises.

“Their deposit return scheme is running years late, will reportedly only include some containers, and crucially breaks their own manifesto promises.

“In the face of the overlapping plastic and climate crisis we simply cannot afford such reckless dillydallying.”

He said it was “obviously nonsense” for England to have a “less ambitious” scheme than in Wales and Scotland, adding: “This decision further challenges the functionality of our internal markets and risks further constitutional unease just because Westminster doesn’t have half the ambition levels of the devolved administrations.”

Surfers Against Sewage’s Amy Slack said the “much delayed” announcement appeared to be “a huge missed opportunity”.

“The Government has rolled back on its 2019 manifesto commitment to include glass, one of the most environmentally damaging materials,” she said.

“This is frankly nonsensical and puts England at odds with systems being introduced in Scotland and Wales, hindering UK-wide compatibility.”

Around 14 billion plastic drinks bottles and nine billion drinks cans are used in the UK every year, many of which are condemned to landfill, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said.

The new scheme aims to ensure 85% fewer drinks containers are thrown away after three years of its launch.

Rebecca Pow, the environment minister in the UK Government, said it will be a “simple and effective system” to help “people reduce litter and recycle more easily”.

“We want to support people who want to do the right thing to help stop damaging plastics polluting our green spaces or floating in our oceans and rivers,” she said.