While relatively simple in concept, deposit return systems (DRSs) for beverage containers can be designed and implemented in a number of different ways. One of the most fundamental design features of a DRS, and integral to its success or otherwise, is the scope of the materials and/or types of containers covered by the system. One of the issues often raised in relation to program scope is whether a DRS should include certain target materials, specifically ‘on the go’ beverage containers, or all beverage containers (irrespective of size, format, or other distinction).

Many retailers, brand owners, and some in the waste management sector think that a focus on ‘on the go’ is preferable. A recent report by Suez, for example, one of the largest waste management companies in the U.K., suggests that a DRS for Britain should only target plastic bottles less than 0.75L and aluminum cans consumed ‘on the go’ because these containers represent a more significant cause of litter than other, larger containers. But DRS is not simply a tool to reduce litter; it is a comprehensive tool to create jobs, keep valuable material in the U.K., and provide feedstock to companies that are looking to incorporate recycled resin into their new bottles.

In light of this, Reloop is pleased to release these 7 reasons why limiting a deposit return system to ‘on-the-go’ beverage containers only is a bad idea

1. Customer Confusion

Applying a deposit on some containers and not others is confusing for consumers. This results in less than optimum system performance and low collection rates.

2. Low Economies of Scale

The broader the scope of the program, the higher the tonnages collected. This helps to drive economies of scale. Focusing on only a segment of beverage containers makes the entire program far more expensive per unit, as cost efficiency is highly reliant on volume.

3. Missed Opportunity for Retailers

If the system is limited to ‘on-the-go’ beverages, participating retailers will lose out on an important revenue opportunity, and will have less incentive to act as collection points.

4. Less Effective Litter Control

There is no clear definition of ‘on-the-go’ and it is impossible to pre-determine where a drink will be consumed, regardless of where it is purchased.

5. Producers Will Take Advantage of Loopholes

Competitive distortions between beverage categories and packaging types that are deposit-bearing and not can lead producers to avoid the deposit by switching production to other container types or increasing the size of their containers.

6. Reduced Opportunities for Municipalities to Save Costs

Comprehensive deposit systems, which cover all beverage containers, offer municipalities the opportunity to gain financially from avoided waste management and recycling costs.

7. Market Distortions

Applying a deposit on some containers but not others makes the non-deposit beverages appear cheaper on store shelves, even though the deposit is 100% refundable. This could encourage some consumers to switch to a non-deposit alternative.