Aluminium industry calls for UK government action on deposit return scheme

Aluminium industry calls for UK government action on deposit return scheme

Sustainability

Alupro, a not-for-profit organisation representing the UK's aluminium packaging industry supply chain, has urged the UK government to take immediate action to ensure that the proposed deposit return scheme (DRS) for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland enhances the aluminium recycling rates without harming the market.

In a joint letter sent to Thérèse Coffey MP, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Alupro's 29 members emphasised the importance of a well-designed DRS that avoids damaging the market for the most circular packaging materials.

As an infinitely recyclable material, aluminium beverage can recycling rates reached a record-breaking 82% in 2021. Alupro aims to help businesses meet and exceed recycling targets for aluminium packaging, and it has expressed concerns that the implementation of the DRS in Scotland could incentivise the purchase of large-volume PET bottles, harming the market for aluminium. Alupro has called for the proposed DRS to be fair, equitable, and effective, without compromising the well-functioning existing recycling system for aluminium beverage containers.

Aluminium industry calls for UK government action on deposit return scheme

Tom Giddings, executive director of Alupro, commented:

From an aluminium perspective, whilst we welcome the publication of the government's response, we were disappointed by several elements of it – particularly the decision to exclude glass bottles despite widespread support for a scheme including them evident from the government's own analysis of consultation responses. A DRS is already a challenging initiative to implement effectively without compromising market growth and dynamics, and this decision in particular accentuates the situation. Additionally we urge the government to publish their impact assessment urgently to allow proper scrutiny of the decisions taken to date.

As such, we have outlined four key priorities which must be implemented in the next stage of the scheme's development to ensure it supports the thriving aluminium packaging and recycling sector.

Firstly, a variable rate of deposit based on container volume is essential for a successful DRS that maximises environmental impact and minimises economic harm for industry. They are used in the most successful schemes globally and prevent the perverse incentive for consumers to buy more plastic bottles.

Secondly, there must be a fair and level playing field for all competing materials. Indeed, while the decision has already been made to exclude glass beverage containers from the scope of DRS, they should still be subject to equal collection and recycling targets under the EPR system.

Thirdly, it's imperative that DRS promotes the development of a circular economy by facilitating the recycling of packaging. When it comes to infinitely recyclable aluminium, for example, material collected through the scheme should be returned to the packaging system– as is the case currently.

Finally, encouraging widespread consumer participation will prove crucial to maximising recycling rates. From our experience over the past 30 years, we've seen that well-designed and engaging programmes like Every Can Counts have been essential to achieving high recycling rates. Programmes like this can ensure recycling ambitions are realised by educating consumers on the importance of recycling properly. Government should ask applicants for the scheme administrator role to clearly demonstrate their approach to promoting the scheme and working with providers like Alupro who can share their expertise.

The DRS, set to be implemented in October 2025, will involve adding a deposit to the price of a beverage product in store, which will then be refunded to the customer when empty packaging is returned to a designated collection point.

Alupro's members remain concerned following the government's recent consultation response and are urging the government to take immediate action and collaborate with industry stakeholders to ensure a well-designed and effective DRS that boosts aluminium recycling rates without harming the market.

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