A group of cross-party MPs in the UK have called on the Government to introduce a drinks return scheme with a variable deposit. 

A variable deposit will see consumers pay a value which varies based on the size and material of the drinks container. An Early Day Motion signed by 19 MPs urged the Government to introduce a deposit return model which mirrors those used by Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.   Conservative Tracey Crouch MP, former Secretary of State for the Environment Hilary Benn MP, and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP all signed the Early Day Motion.  

With Nordic countries benefiting from recycling rates of higher than 90 percent, MPs believe this model will be key to tackling Britain’s waste crisis. Under a deposit return scheme consumers pay a deposit when purchasing drinks containers which they redeem when they return it to a collection point.  

The UK Government is set to introduce a deposit return scheme covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Concerned by more than two million pieces of litter being dropped in the UK every day, the MPs recognise a deposit return scheme is crucial to combating pollution. The calls follow a landmark poll revealed last June which found four-in-five Britons believe the scheme should have a variable deposit.

Campaigners backed the MPs’ calls as they warned a flat deposit fee could make it more economical for consumers to switch from small containers to large two-litre plastic bottles. They argue a flat deposit represents a substantial percentage increase on the price of small drinks servings in small glass bottles and aluminium cans compared to larger servings in two-litre plastic bottles. For larger containers the increase is less significant.  

A flat deposit fee thus risks incentivising consumers to purchase two-litre plastic bottles. They believe implementing a variable scheme is the most effective model for reducing waste.  

The early day motion signed by 19 MPs reads as follows:  

“That this House notes that the UK is in the midst of a catastrophic waste crisis and that, according to Keep Britain Tidy, over two million pieces of litter are dropped in the UK every day; recognises that drinks containers contribute to the crisis; notes that a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will help fight Britain’s waste crisis; recognises that Nordic countries have best-in-class Deposit Return Scheme models inclusive of all materials with a deposit fee that varies according to the size and material of the container, and that these countries benefit from recycling rates higher than 90 percent; strongly supports the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland that mirrors the tried and tested Nordic model; and calls on the Government to follow the example of these nations and introduce a world-class scheme in 2023.” 

The calls were backed by environmental campaigner Neil Garrick-Maidment who said: “A deposit return scheme represents a seismic moment in tackling Britain’s waste crisis, but it will only do so if we get it right.   

“It’s crucial for the programme to be as comprehensive as possible, with a variable-fee which reflects the differing sizes and materials used in drinks containers.   

“Nordic countries have paved the way forward and enjoy some of the highest recycling rates in the world, giving Britain a roadmap to follow to ensure its own scheme has the impact needed.”  

Written by Kevin Gambrill