Bottle recycling scheme could cost retailers £1.8bn per year

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has estimated that a government scheme to recycle plastic bottles could cost the retail industry around £1.8 billion a year from 2025.

The startup costs of the deposit return scheme (DRS), which include buying machines, could impact businesses earlier than the planned start date, said the trade association.

The estimated costs include staff training, installation, labour costs and maintenance, but don’t include the “hundreds of millions of pounds” required from the industry to set up a body to run the scheme, it added.

The BRC called on the government to review its current plans to avoid an “unnecessarily complex and expensive scheme”. The organisation mentioned similar initiative in Scotland which it said left the industry paying “tens of millions” in sunk costs after the scheme was rushed.

The DRS is part of the government’s wider plans to eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050 and all plastic waste by 2042.

“The proposed deposit return scheme is costly, complicated and cannot deliver the step change in recycling needed to justify it,” said Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the BRC. “By driving up costs by almost £2 billion per year the government risks pushing up prices for ordinary households, just as inflation is coming down.”

He continued: “Government must first introduce its household collection and packaging levy reforms so that it can assess the best way forward on a DRS. On its current course, it will be consumers who will pay the price of this unnecessarily hasty, expensive and complex scheme.”

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