Earlier this week (11 April), the 29 members of Alupro sent a joint letter to Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, calling for immediate government action in order to ensure that a deposit return scheme (DRS) across England, Wales and Northern Ireland further enhances aluminium recycling rates without compromising the market.
A not-for-profit organisation with more than 30 years’ experience representing the UK’s aluminium packaging industry supply chain, Alupro represents businesses who work to fulfil the industry’s obligation to meet, and exceed, recycling targets for aluminium packaging. As an infinitely recyclable material, aluminium beverage can recycling rates hit a record-breaking 82% in 2021.
The organisation is clear in its view that any new legislation must be well designed to avoid the market being damaged for the most circular packaging materials.
Set to be implemented in October 2025, the implementation of a DRS will see a deposit added 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 has been concerned that the DRS being implemented in Scotland will damage the market for aluminium and incentivise the purchase of more large-volume PET bottles, hoping that the proposals for the rest of the UK will avoid these pitfalls.
However, following the government’s recent consultation response, members remain concerned and are adamant that immediate action and collaborative thinking are needed to ensure any DRS is fair, equitable and effective.
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.”
Representing the views of the aluminium packaging sector, Alupro and its members seek a DRS that is not only fair and equitable but doesn’t jeopardise what is a well-functioning existing recycling system for aluminium beverage containers.
For more information about Alupro, or its extensive research into developing a well-designed DRS, visit www.alupro.org.uk. To read the letter to Thérèse Coffey MP in full, visit www.alupro.org.uk/sustainability/position-statements/drs-letter-to-defra-april23/.