UK study highlights role of 'convenience' in deposit return scheme

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Some 56% of consumers either wouldn't travel or travel more than a mile to return their empty containers for recycling and get their deposit back.

A study by the UK Plastics Recycling Charity, RECOUP, has found that convenience is the key feature in having a successful deposit return scheme (DRS) for drink containers.

The consumer insight survey was conducted among 341 UK inhabitants across Norfolk, Swansea and Peterborough to provide a representative sample of different geographical areas, socio-demographics, age ranges and genders.

The survey results, published 6 Dec, found that 56% of consumers either wouldn’t travel or travel more than a mile to return their empty containers for recycling and get their deposit back. Only 14% were prepared to travel more than 3 miles.

Many respondents connected getting their deposit back to where they did their grocery shopping, making the convenience of returning drinks containers fit with everyday activities, RECOUP noted.

“A comprehensive UK wide deposit infrastructure would mean widespread and varied collection point locations that could include strategic ‘away from home’ and high footfall locations such as work places, transport hubs, and ‘on-the-go’ including locations that sell drinks,” the organisation added.

Of the 56% of consumers who wouldn’t travel, 36% would only travel less than a mile and 20% stated they would not want to travel at all.

This, according to RECOUP, is a “solid indication” that kerbside schemes would continue to be used as the primary collection scheme for drinks containers by some consumers.

“This research points to convenience being a common and important theme for consumers,” explained Steve Morgan, who co-ordinates the RECOUP DRS development working group.

Morgan went on to state that a “well-designed” deposit return scheme could make consumers understand the value of their used drinks containers.

According to the findings of the study, the distance consumers would be willing to travel could be influenced by the price point of the deposit.

Almost 60% of consumers said 10p was a sufficient deposit to incentivise them to return their drinks containers for recycling. Only 20% thought a deposit of 30p or more would be needed to incentivise them to return their drinks containers.

The survey also found that ‘away from home’ locations - the recycling bins provided in public areas, special events and industrial zones - are a significant opportunity for the UK to collect drinks containers for recycling. 

RECOUP said 84% of consumers reported that they placed containers for recycling, but cast doubt on the figure saying current collection rates indicate some consumers are exaggerating their positive disposal habits.

Some 55% of those questioned said that they recycled the drinks containers at home, with 29% reporting that they placed drinks containers for recycling away from home as well as at home.

The primary collection material for a deposit return scheme is plastic bottles. Plastic drinks bottles were the most bought drinks container when purchasing drinks to consume at home or ‘on-the-go’. According to RECOUP, 71% of consumers bought plastic bottles, whereas 50% of respondents purchased cans and 36% bought drinks in glass bottles.

The UK government announced plans for a deposit return scheme for plastic and glass bottles in March this year and has launched a consultation period on the issue.

The scheme, according to the department for environment, food & rural affairs (DEFRA), is set for launch this year, although private firms such as supermarket chains have already started their own DRS schemes.

According to DEFRA, UK consumers go through an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, more than three billion of which are incinerated, sent to landfill or left as litter.

The scheme, which will be launched in England, will include all single use drinks containers whether plastic, glass or metal.


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