Sunak urged to ‘step up’ and include glass in deposit return scheme

Failure to include glass bottles in the deposit return scheme for England will result in a “weaker” system than in Scotland, Rishi Sunak has been warned.

Environmental campaigners fear if the initiative south of the border goes ahead with just drinks cans and plastic bottles included, people will “quickly see the difference in terms of litter” in towns and in the countryside.

In Scotland, where deposit return will come in earlier in March 2024, glass bottles have been included in the scheme.

Data from Zero Waste Scotland suggests including glass will help cut CO2 emissions by more than 50,000 tonnes a year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is being urged to ‘step up’ on the issue (Alastair Grant/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is being urged to ‘step up’ on the issue (Alastair Grant/PA)

Speaking after regulations for the delayed Scottish scheme were published, Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said deposit return plans south of the border must be “urgently” amended.

The Conservative manifesto in 2019 included a commitment to bring in a deposit return scheme in England “to incentivise people to recycle plastic and glass”, but when the details were announced earlier this year, it was limited to drinks cans and plastic bottles.

Ms Ogden-Newton said: “England urgently needs a deposit return scheme that includes glass.

“Glass litter costs millions of pounds each year to local authorities who are responsible for removing dangerous broken shards from the environment, where it harms people and animals and blights communities.

“By the Government’s own estimation, a deposit return scheme could reduce littering of glass bottles by 85% and increase our stagnant recycling rates to more than 90%.

“We know that including glass in the deposit return scheme is popular with industry, environmental groups and the public.

“The Government needs to respond to the evidence and public demand and bring in a deposit return scheme for glass that will benefit people and the environment for generations to come.”

Kat Jones, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, which has led the campaign for the introduction of deposit return in Scotland, said: “It’s time for Rishi Sunak to end the uncertainty and bring glass into the English deposit system, in line with an explicit Conservative manifesto promise.

“Polling shows that the majority of the British public want glass included. Why should they not be able to return their glass bottles alongside cans and plastic bottles?

“Glass is the most carbon-intensive material, and the most important to include in any system. Littered glass hurts wildlife, pets, and livestock, injures people who do outdoor sports, and is even associated with wildfires.

“If England persists with this weaker system, we will quickly see the difference in terms of litter in towns and countryside.

“Prime Minister: please step up so England isn’t condemned to decades more glass litter.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “We are committed to delivering a deposit return scheme for drinks containers as quickly and effectively as possible to boost recycling, tackle plastic pollution and reduce litter.

“Following consultation and subsequent industry engagement, we believe the addition of glass will add additional complexity and challenges to delivery of DRS – particularly to the hospitality and retail sectors. So instead, glass will be included in the scope of the Extended Producer Responsibility regime to make sure it is properly and effectively recycled.”