The metal recycling industry has been paying the public for years 

THE UK’s two deposit return schemes could end up increasing the demand for plastic. 

The warning, issued by British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) for Global Recycling Day, comes as England and Wales are still working to decide how an all-in scheme would operate. 

Amid much disquiet, Scotland is due to launch its scheme in August 2023 for vessels of 50ml to three litres, made from PET, aluminium, and glass. 

A key issue in the proposals is that no matter the size of the container, the deposit is 20p. 

Research carried out by Alupro, the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation, found that of 2,000 people surveyed, two thirds of those buying cans in multipacks said they would be more likely to switch to the plastic bottles when faced with paying an upfront deposit of £4.80 on top of the purchase price of a 24-can multipack compared with a deposit of 80p for four large plastic bottles containing the same amount of liquid. This could lead to some 823 million extra plastic bottles being produced, Alupro says. 

Antonia Grey, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the BMRA said: “The deposit returns schemes are inherently a good thing to encourage further recycling thereby reducing our reliance on primary materials. However, aluminium cans already have a convenient kerbside home collection and with recycling rates as high as they are, it would be interesting to see what the impact would be. For example, in 2021, Alupro reported that four in five (82%) beverage cans were recycled, making this the most recycled beverage packaging type in the UK.

Ms Grey added: “Recycling aluminium cans in the UK is an efficient closed loop system. We agree with concerns presented by other Associations and industries, that it could add additional pollution to a system already working. In addition, given the cost-of-living crisis, would people pay more for their cans of drink versus a bigger bottle?”

BMRA suggests one way to avoid this could be to introduce a variable-rate DRS. This model is already proving successful in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Under the so-called Nordic Model, a varying deposit is levied on drinks containers based on their size and material, rather than a single flat rate. They have all seen their recycling rates increase since implementing their DRS; for example, Denmark has achieved a bottle and can recycling rate of 90 percent.