GreenRedeem has criticised plans for a deposit return scheme (DRS) in the UK, instead saying a system it has piloted in schools across Berkshire delivers better results.
The ‘behavioural change’ company today (20 May) published findings from a year–long pilot it conducted in a report called ‘Money back for our empties – the recycling solution for our plastic bottles?
The pilot, which took place between Jan-Dec 2019, involved placing ‘interactive recycling kiosks’ alongside educational activity and financial incentives across 25 schools in Berkshire.
Reverse vending machines were installed at each of the schools, who receive a 5p donation for every plastic bottle collected, funded by the project partners.
GreenRedeem says that by “offering educational and financial benefits and using interactive kiosks to create a focal point for engagement”, the model improved recycling quality and increased capture rates.
The scheme initially involved 16 schools across the Berkshire borough, but was extended to a further nine schools in May 2019 (see letsrecycle.com story).
Today’s report says that the 12 month study saw 12,000 pupils recycle nearly 160,000 plastic bottles – weighing a combined total of five tonnes – with plastic drinks containers sourced at school, from home, events, and litter picks.
“As part of the closed loop process, recycled bottles were collected from the kiosks each week, providing a very clean amount of PET, which was used to create new plastic bottles,” the report says.
GreenRedeem says, alongside this, awareness of the impact of plastic pollution grew from 88% to 93%, while 75% said that being able to help a local school motivated them to recycle more and respondents claiming to recycle all plastic bottles when not at home grew from 56% to 62%.
GreenRedeem says it is concerned that deposit return schemes are “an expensive way of achieving little”, and ran the pilot to explore an alternative recycling solution that could provide greater impact.
It says the government’s approach of basing DRS proposals on those seen in Norway and Germany means it is using secondary data, and that without first testing technology the UK could risk “sleepwalking” into a system which has unintended consequences on the industry.
GreenRedeem also pointed to a report from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in 2019, which called for the government’s plans for a deposit return scheme in England to be abandoned unless “a more robust economic case” can be made (see letsrecycle.com story).
Addressing local authority concerns that a DRS could hit income from kerbside material, GreenRedeem said that under a ‘closed loop’ system, producers could argue material belongs to them and that they are simply ‘lending it’ to the consumer.
The ‘interactive kiosk’ was branded with video, images and relevant environmental facts, which the company said created a strong focal point in the school where students could scan and recycle plastic bottles.
“We must invest in convenient solutions that create sustained behaviour change by linking recycling with education”
Following collection and baling at Grundon Waste Management’s nearby Colnbrook facility, the baled PET was bulked and transported to CleanTech in Lincolnshire. At CleanTech’s plant, the PET was sorted, cleaned and a food grade PET flake was created.
This was then transported to Plastipak’s manufacturing facility in Wrexham, Wales, to be manufactured into a new product.
Matthew Ball, managing director of Greenredeem, said:“In the UK, 3 billion plastic bottles are thrown away, littered or never recycled every year. There is a clear need for the Government and the industry – from manufacturer to retailer, collector to processor – to find long term solutions. But DRS alone is not the answer. We must invest in convenient solutions that create sustained behaviour change by linking recycling with education, good causes and people’s priorities.
“The flexible model we piloted provides a readily available and scalable solution which benefits everyone involved.”
Subject to a further round of consultations, a DRS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is set to be rolled out in 2023, with Scotland opting to introduce the system a year earlier.
Source: letsrecycle.com Plastic