Environmental campaigners have reacted angrily to reports of delays to a long-proposed scheme to pay people to recycle drinks bottles and cans.
A “deposit return scheme”, which charges customers a levy on for drinks containers that is paid back when they return them for recycling, may not happen until late 2024 at the earliest, according to reports.
Then-environment secretary Michael Gove said in 2018 there were plans to introduce such a scheme – as early as 2020 – and a year later the Government pledged it would be brought in for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2023.
But now The Times has reported the Government consultation for the programme, expected on Wednesday, suggests it will not be introduced until late 2024 at the earliest.
Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at CPRE, the countryside charity, said the public wanted to see action on the waste crisis, and called on the Government to introduce an “all-in” scheme covering all containers, as pledged by Michael Gove when he was environment secretary.
“New research shows that around eight billion drinks containers are landfilled, littered or burnt every year,” Mr Fyans said.
“Despite all this, the Government looks set to delay a Deposit Return Scheme until the end of 2024 – essentially shirking their responsibility and waiting for a new government to show any leadership on the issue,” he said.
“This delay is so much more than kicking the can down the road – it seems that in the face of industry lobbying, ministers would prefer to stick their heads in the sand rather than tackle the problem of waste head on.”
Sam Chetan-Welsh, political campaigner at Greenpeace, said taking years to introduce a bottle return scheme, which other countries have had for decades, was “embarrassing”.
“This is not the action of a Government that is serious about tackling plastic pollution, and is nowhere near world-leading.
“Further delay means billions more plastic and glass bottles and cans will be dumped or burned.
“This is asking our rivers, oceans and wildlife for an extension they can’t afford to give.”
Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner, Camilla Zerr, said: “The Deposit Return Scheme will boost recycling, cut waste, and help reduce the flow of plastic pollution pouring into our environment, so there is no justification in delaying it.
“Ministers must stand strong in the face of industry lobbying because the deposit return scheme is urgently needed. The Government shouldn’t bottle it now.”
A Government source said ministers are “absolutely committed to tackling plastic pollution” and would outline further details of the deposit return scheme later on Wednesday.