Drinks cartons could be included deposit return recycling scheme

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Cartons could be included in the scheme (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Cartons could be included in the scheme (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The government could include juice and milk cartons in its planned deposit return recycling scheme, ministers have suggested.

Under the policy a small charge is set to be added to the price of drinks, with the money refunded when the bottle or can it is sold in is recycled.

Similar schemes already operate in Scotland and many other European countries.

But speaking in the Commons on Thursday environment minister Jo Churchill said she would not rule out extending the proposals to cartons – going further than most other countries.

Conservative MP Steve Baker, whose constituency hosts the carton manufacturer Tetrapak, said the government should include the packaging as an "extra step".

He urged environment minister Jo Churchill to meet with the manufacturer and "discuss the feasibility of onward processing of cartons, which I believe would make that inclusion a practical possibility".

Responding for the government Ms Churchill said: "We will be announcing more information on the deposit return scheme shortly but I would of course be happy to meet with his constituent for further discussions. I don't think we should rule anything out but neither am I making any promises."

The government launched a new consultation on the deposit return scheme in March last year, having first consulted on it in 2019. It says the scheme is important for moving towards "a more circular economy, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible and waste is minimised".

Across the UK an estimated 14 billion plastic drinks bottles, 9 billion drinks cans and 5 billion glass bottles are used a year. Ministers say they want the scheme to be in place from "late 2024 at the earliest", delayed from an original plan for 2023.

The government previously said that including cartons in the scheme would have "environmental benefits", but proposed that they should not be included because of a lack of recycling infrastructure and demand for recycled carton packaging material.

Instead is suggested requiring councils to recycle cartons more widely as dry household waste. 73 per cent of consultation respondents backed including cartons in the scheme, however, including the carton industry.

The scheme is planned to apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as Scotland already has a deposit return scheme.

Alex Henriksen, European managing director for Tetra Pak, said in a statement: “We have consistently been calling for the inclusion of beverage cartons in the UK DRS from its launch. The limited model proposed by the Government risks confusing consumers who are used to recycling a wider range of materials via other routes, and therefore risks undermining the UK’s ambitions to create a truly circular economy and tackle climate change.

“Both real world and technical trials have proven that cartons fit well into Deposit Return Schemes, and the UK has ample capacity for the onward processing of collected cartons. In the UK cartons are collected for recycling in 93 per cent of authority areas – they are processed either at a dedicated carton recycling plant in Halifax, or in paper mills. The Halifax plant alone has capacity to process 40 per cent of cartons on the UK market.”

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