‘Badly designed’ deposit scheme may be unfair on small brewers

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Waste strategy: the Government has unveiled its first Resources and Waste Strategy in 11 years
Waste strategy: the Government has unveiled its first Resources and Waste Strategy in 11 years
The Government’s new Resources and Waste Strategy has been heralded as “the most ambitious, and most forward-looking document to come from Government in this area in years” by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).

The Government's first new waste strategy in more than a decade outlines how ministers aim to change the way the UK deals with waste in both the home and the workplace.

Proposals include the introduction of consistent labelling on packaging, so that consumers know what they can and can’t recycle, and making the firms that produce materials responsible for the cost of disposing of items.

Moreover, the strategy also proposes that consumers pay a returnable deposit on bottles, cans and disposable cups.

The Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“Together, we can move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource."

Unconvinced on glass

While the hospitality sector has welcomed the Government’s strategy, the proposed deposit scheme remains contentious.

Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) chief executive Miles Beale commented: “We welcome the Government’s intention to tackle waste.

“The UK wine and spirit industry has, for some years now, been working hard – and successfully – to reduce its impact on the environment, for example by shipping in bulk and using less glass in its bottles. 

“However, we remain unconvinced that glass drinks containers should be included within the scope of the proposed deposit return scheme.

“The UK already exceeds EU glass recycling targets.

“About 70% of glass packaging is recycled against a target of only 60%. Introducing DRS for glass drinks containers flies in the face of this track record – and could undermine achievements to date.

“Moreover for wine and spirit drinks, the vast majority of which are consumed in the home, there is no evidence to suggest that glass drinks containers are contributing to litter.”

Must be affordable

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “The hospitality sector shares the concerns of the Government and the public regarding sustainability.

“Our businesses understand there is a need to address issues like single-use plastics and food waste, and they are already hard at work.

“Many outlets have already undertaken measures to cut waste voluntarily and UKHospitality, along with the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), has been leading efforts to promote best practice across hospitality.

“We are supportive of new measures to promote sustainability and tackle waste but they must be affordable and proportionate.

“New measures are going to hit businesses at a tough time when costs are increasing and consumer confidence is low.

“Any new scheme, particularly the deposit return scheme, must be workable and avoid piling further financial pressure on businesses."

Difficult to absorb costs

SIBA head of public affairs and communications James Calder commented: “This waste and resources strategy is perhaps the most ambitious and most forward-looking document to come from Government in this area in years.

“Independent brewers want to see the amount of recycled material go up, pollution go down and the costs of new cans and bottles to drop through increased use of recycled materials.

“But proposed reforms to the PRN (for producer packaging responsibility) could potentially increase costs to small brewers by a factor of 10.

“A badly designed, confusing or burdensome deposit return scheme could also impact small brewers disproportionately.

“Small brewers in a highly competitive marketplace, working on tight margins, will find it very difficult to absorb costs like these.

“SIBA is working closely with DEFRA to ensure that the financial impact on small brewers is mitigated, while working responsibly to ensure that we protect our natural capital.

“When the vast majority of craft beer is consumed in a licensed premises or in the home (and not on-the-go) existing closed loop recycling for commercial venues and kerbside collections for homes do a great job of collecting empty craft beer cans and bottles already.”

SME protection 'reassuring' 

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, added: “We welcome this new waste strategy and the brewing and pub sectors will be working closely with the Government to achieve its aims.

“We support a Deposit Return Scheme for plastic bottles and crucially the strategy’s recognition of the need for a UK-wide system, which is vital to avoid unnecessary costs and significant fraud risk in what is an integrated UK supply-chain and market for drinks containers.

 “Reducing food waste is also a key element of the strategy and although this will be yet another cost pressure for pubs, which already face tight margins, our sector recognises the role we have to play.

"This is why we continue to work with WRAP and are committed to the Courtauld Commitment 2025 to reduce food waste.

"The BBPA recently signed up to WRAP’s Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, which helps organisations to take targeted action to reduce their food waste.

“The proposed reforms to Producer Packaging Responsibility are likely to lead to significant cost increases as producers will bear the full cost of recycling or disposing of waste costs and so it is important that brewers and pubs, especially the smaller ones, are not overburdened by the changes.

"The strategies recognition that SMEs will need to be protected is therefore reassuring.”

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