The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has this week submitted a strong objection to a Defra consultation over including glass in a deposit return scheme (DRS), arguing there are better ways to boost recycling in England and Wales.
Instead the costly and unnecessary move could drive producers to use more, cheaper to recycle, plastic packaging which would completely undermine what campaigners had hoped to achieve.
The WSTA estimates that by including glass in a new DRS initiative would cost consumers around £280 million over the next five years.
In 2018 around 1.7 billion glass bottles of wine and spirits were sold in the UK. If Westminster copied Scotland and glass was lumped into a new deposit return scheme, it would mean each bottle would cost at least an extra 3.3p surcharge, a cost which ultimately would land with the consumer. Add this together with a 20p refundable deposit per bottle, we would see an average bottle of wine, currently £5.84, rise to £6.08.
Over the next five years the WSTA estimates around 8.5 million bottles of wine and spirits will be sold in the UK leaving Brits facing a £280 million bottle bill.
The price hike would be another bitter blow to wine drinkers who were singled out for a duty rise by the Chancellor at the last Budget. From February 1st this year the duty rate on still wine has increased by 7p to £2.23, and on sparkling by 9p to £2.86.
The extra cost to the consumer could be avoided if Government looked to improving kerbside collections.
In its submission to the Defra consultation the WSTA argues that glass is 100% recyclable, it does not present the same threat to wildlife as plastic, is largely inert, made from natural materials, and easily available.
Wine and spirit producers have made significant environmental strides in recent years, reducing glass per bottle by up to 60% over the last decade – and exceeding EU glass recycling targets at the same time.
The WSTA highlighted that glass bottles are brittle and much heavier than plastic and the evidence shows that this makes it more difficult for those without a car and for the elderly and disabled to return bottles.
It argues that including glass is a regressive move that will drive producers and retailers to review their glass bottle portfolio and could lead to more plastic packaging.
However, if the focus was on improving existing kerbside collections this will ease the burden on businesses and consumers and will require fewer car journeys and would mean lower CO2 emissions.
Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said:
“The WSTA has long argued that there is no evidence to support the inclusion of glass in the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). What is clear is that including glass drastically increases costs which ultimately will end up being paid for by the consumer.
One of the major concerns is that by including glass the Government would drive producers and retailers into moving away from glass and finding other solutions and actually increasing plastic pollution.
The UK already exceeds EU recycling targets for glass and Michael Gove must question whether it would be significantly more cost-effective with greater environmental gains to exempt glass from DRS and improve kerbside collection instead.