BY BILL BRUCE
EDITOR, REFRESHMENT MAGAZINE
The plastics debate rages on and, as you will know if you read my views in the last issue of Refreshment magazine, I believe that more consumer education about recycling, plus greater investment in effective infrastructure, is essential if we can adopt a philosophy of ‘waste is only waste if you waste it’. So I am delighted by certain recent developments.
In the latest issue of Refreshment magazine, we have included a feature called ‘Towards a circular economy’, and two stories in our sustainability news section mention deposit return schemes (DRS) and the introduction of ‘reverse vending machines’ by two UK retailers – Iceland and the Co-operative.
These machines are by no means a new idea – and neither is the concept of returnable deposits for packaging – but in the UK they are nevertheless gaining a large amount of media attention, bringing the recycling debate and much-needed education closer to consumers.
Norway has had an efficient bottle recycling system, called ‘panteordning’, since 1972 and today manages to recycle more than 90% of plastic bottles.
England has been quite slow to make a decision, but after a decade of lobbying, Westminster pledged at the end of March that all drinks containers in England – whether plastic, glass or metal – will be covered by a deposit return scheme. There is a year of consultation ahead. Meanwhile, Scotland committed to a bottle deposit scheme last year. Similar schemes already operate in 38 countries, in ten US states, eight out of ten Canadian provinces, and Southern Australia.
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Some of the statistics are impressive. For instance, Lithuania has managed to achieve a 93% return rate in just three years; and in Germany, where a DRS was introduced in 2003, 99% of plastic bottles are now recycled.
Reverse vending machines use proven technology and the vending industry has a role to play in advising the UK government during its year of consultation – reversing the trend of careless disposal of so-called ‘single-use’ plastics. We will be looking at the opportunities and technologies in a future issue of Refreshment magazine.
Meanwhile, I remain proud that Refreshment’s audience is leading by example and positively contributing to a progressively more sustainable future.
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