By Sam Portillo | News Editor
The Welsh Government will trial a deposit return scheme this spring, encouraging consumers to recycle single-use containers such as plastic bottles in return for digital tokens worth an initial 20p each.
The trial will take place over the course of four weeks in the town of Colwyn Heights in Conwy, North Wales, using ‘Polytag’ technology to scan and register items through a mobile phone app. During the scheme pilot, each recycled item, scanned first by the consumer and then the council’s recycling team, will be worth a 20p donation to Ysgol Pen y Bryn, the local primary school.
Scanning technology marks the programme as different from previous deposit return schemes, which required consumers to take recyclable items to a central location. Using the mobile app, consumers will be able to take part from home.
All single-use containers are eligible for scanning, meaning recycled plastic, glass and metal items could be worth 20p each.
40 other countries already run a deposit return scheme (DRS) of some kind, where it is hoped to encourage consumers to take a proactive approach against climate change by limiting their waste. In some cases, recyclable items are returned to the shop they were bought from. Others use a network of ‘reverse vending machines’ which serve as designated collection points.
In Wales, an extra cost would be added to recyclable containers in the shop in order to fund the technology and logistics behind the programme, likely between 10p and 20p.
Research by the UK Parliament’s Environment Audit Committee found that countries with a DRS in place tend to recycle between 80 and 95 percent of their plastic bottles. For comparison, England currently recycles at a rate of around 57 percent. The research did find some outliers – places with a DRS in place which report no increase in recycling rate – such as South Australia and California.
Beyond consumer willingness to play their part, factors such as the efficiency of waste collection also help to determine recycling rates. Wales has a comfortably higher recycling rate than England, which some attribute to the efficiency of its nationwide system, compared to England’s, where processes differ across each local authority area.
Wales would not be a trailblazer in implementing a DRS, then, but rather following in the footsteps of forty countries from around the world. Indeed, the UK ran a similar system from the 1960s to 1980s, offering people their money back in return for their glass bottles. The Scottish Parliament has already voted to implement a national DRS from July 2022, and Wales could follow soon after.