As we, as a society, become more and more environmentally aware, the question of the next big move towards sustainable living is always on our minds.
With the success of eco-initiatives like the plastic bag tax, more fuel-efficient cars and cleaner beaches, we are creating a healthier environment for all.
We can do a lot more, however, and many think they have found the next step.
There’s a term that is being floated more and more regularly by news organizations, politicians, and eco-friendly groups across the whole country.
Across the board, support of Deposit Return Schemes, also known as DRS, is growing.
Last September, Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, even announced that Scotland will be introducing the first DRS in the UK.
But what is it, and how exactly will local economies and communities benefit from its implementation?
What Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) Are
Plastic use is a growing concern for all communities for a wide variety of reasons.
Beyond the use of petroleum and natural gas, two non-renewable resources that have direct causal links to climate change, they present an enormous problem for our local environments.
Plastic waste is more than an eyesore; it’s a danger. Regularly ingested by and entangling birds, animals, and sea life, it accounts for thousands of deaths yearly.
Research supports that much of the plastic waste ingested by animals is later ingested by humans through the food chain, too.
Not to mention, plastic waste eventually photo-degrades into harmful substances that infiltrate our soil and water supplies.
Doing simple things like replacing plastic bags with reusable, eco-friendly shopping bags can have massive environmental and economic impact.
Deposit Return Schemes are an effort to curb plastic waste by eliminating some of the worst culprits.
Much like the old jam jar and milk bottle collections that have long been an institution in the country, it revolves around the reuse of resources that many of us throw away.
Countries using Deposit Return Schemes offer money for the plastic bottles and other drinks containers we use for many of our consumables.
Already, countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have the DRS in place, with the latter seeing 96% of all bottles included in the scheme returned rather than thrown away or recycled.
Most of us already recycle bottles through the blue bin collection scheme, but many think that Deposit Return Schemes are an alternative that could prove better for all of us, improving not just our communities but our local economies too.
Improving the Community
One of the most immediate improvements to our community is a reduction in plastic waste.
Plastic is an eyesore and one of the most regularly occurring items in cases of littering.
In areas that aren’t maintained as often, bottles and bags quickly ruin the charm of any neighborhood and several country roads that used for unauthorised dumping.
The DRS is only one step in reducing this unsightly state of affairs, but it’s one that impacts one of the largest sources of waste.
Plastic in our communities and local environments has more nefarious effects, too. As mentioned, plastic photodegrades.
When it does, it gives off toxic elements that currently threaten to irreversibly affect many of our parks and natural beauty spots with devastating effects in the future.
At most risk are our coasts and oceans, where the majority of plastic waste ends up.
Our current efforts to recycle plastic and other drinks containers are a better alternative to simply throwing them away, but they’re not a truly significant improvement.
Recycling plastic is expensive, and 32% of plastic that goes into recycling schemes ends up going to waste anyway.
DRS is a way of safely seeing more drink containers not only recycled but reused as a fraction of the cost.
Improving the Local Economy
As with all green initiatives, the DRS has to be somewhat economically viable to get any support and all indications show that this is the case.
A common concern is that local authorities might lose money and people might even lose jobs due to less need for roadside collections.
However, many households already produce more recyclables than their blue bins can handle, so these fears aren’t fully substantiated.
What’s more, the DRS scheme would create more jobs. Our roadside blue bin collections system would even be more efficient, with room saved for more waste due to fewer empty bottles and cans taking up more space than they should.
Deposit Return Schemes can impact local businesses, as well. Depending on its implementation, it could reduce the overheads involved in manufacturing new drinks containers.
This might lower start-up costs, paving an easier road for more success stories like Innocent Smoothies, where new drinks manufacturers could have an easier road to success.
Supermarkets and other local employers could see similar savings.
What about the consumer? For them, the incentive is clear. Though drinks containers used through the DRS could have an upfront fee, the surcharge would be entirely refundable through the scheme.
This could mean a lot of little reductions in the money otherwise spent purchasing drinks containers that go to waste.
As the 5p plastic bag tax shows, financial incentives paired with environmental initiatives work.
The high rates of container returns seen in countries like Norway only support this line of thinking even further.
There are plenty of questions about Deposit Return Schemes that have yet to be answered.
How exactly they will work with local authorities and if the UK can replicate Norway’s success with the scheme is amongst them.
However, initial reports suggest a positive outcome and Scotland’s trial of the DRS could see nationwide change if it’s successful.
With companies such as Coca-Cola and Iceland already supportive of the move and many more showing a willingness to work with it, the future looks bright for this particular initiative.
There is already huge public support for Deposit Return Schemes, with other 2/3rds of all people surveyed in Scotland happy about the latest news.
Make sure you show your support and encourage the implementation of a scheme that could mean saving our environment from permanent damage, as well as saving a bit of money.