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Proposed deposit return scheme could put strain on indie retailers

Posted on in Business News

A new deposit return scheme announced by the Government to make it easier for people to recycle plastic bottles and drink cans will put a strain on independent retailers, according to industry bodies.

plastic bottles

The aim of the scheme is that through small cash deposits placed on single-use drinks containers, people will likely be incentivised to recycle their drinks bottles and cans, reducing litter and plastic pollution.

It would include special machines, known as reverse vending machines, and designated sites where people can return their bottles and receive their cash back. In most cases, it would be the retailers who sell drinks covered by the scheme who would host a return point.

However, concern has been expressed about the impact this could have on independent retailers.

Tina McKenzie, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“The Deposit Return Scheme for drink containers is a necessary move towards building a circular economy. The majority of small businesses recognise that the planet is facing a climate crisis and more than a third of small firms have already a plan in place to support the UK’s net zero agenda.

“However, for small and independent retailers, the scheme could mean extra space required on their premises as well as additional cost and time to administer the scheme.

Andrew Goodacre, CEO at the British Independent Retail Association, agreed, “I have genuine concerns about any proposed DRS scheme in England.

“We have already learned from previous consultations with devolved governments in Scotland and Wales that any DRS scheme is complex and will be a burden on businesses – small and large. Given the rising costs of doing business in the current climate, the last thing we need is to impose further costs on hard-pressed indie retailers.”

“We all want to improve recycling levels and there are different approaches to consider, such as increasing the number of recycling points for the general public to use, and encouraging manufacturers to move away from plastic and glass bottles (high energy production and high energy recycling) to aluminium containers.”

The industry bodies also highlighted the need for cohesion across the UK in any environmental efforts, and to pay close attention to the rollout in Scotland later this year.

Andrew Goodacre added, “Whatever is done in England, we need to see alignment with Scotland and Wales so that the rules and systems are the same in all the countries. All too often we see a lack of coordination across many regulations and this complexity simply adds costs and confusion to the business owners.”

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