10th October 2019 | The Savoy, London, WC2R 0EZ
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Position Statements


  • The soft drinks and bottled water sectors have always taken recycling, littering and the environment very seriously.
  • PET plastic bottles and cans used within the sector are 100% recyclable and it is important that consumers are encouraged to dispose of bottles and cans responsibly so they do not end up as litter in our towns, countryside, rivers and oceans.
  • We believe that by working together with governments, NGOs and other stakeholders, real progress can be achieved to make the UK the world leader in creating a truly circular economy, and acknowledge more needs to be done to tackle the issue.

How much is the UK already collecting for recycling at Kerbside?

The UK has a well-established kerbside recycling system, which already captures:

74% HDPE and PET drinks containers are collected for recycling
70% glass drinks bottles
70% aluminium drinks cans
70% steel drinks cans
37% drinks cartons

However, issues remain with kerbside collections which negatively impact on recycling rates; namely inconsistency across collections and household confusion on recyclability.  

What is a deposit return scheme (DRS)?

Such schemes are most commonly applied to beverage packaging. They place a surcharge (deposit) on a packaged product at the point of purchase, and provide a rebate when the empty packaging is returned to a designated collection point. If a consumer chooses not to return the empty container, they choose to forfeit their deposit.

Is a DRS the right answer?

A well-designed and well run deposit system, supported by consumer communications, could help tackle litter and increase recycling for the material streams it captures. While the concept is simple, across the world there are a variety of different schemes operating, with varying results, associated costs, and impact on other litter and recycling initiatives.

It is worth considering what a DRS would mean for the UK, what the best model would be, and how it would be implemented, especially considering that the UK, Scotland and Welsh Governments are taking different approaches to the issue.

What is a PRN/PERN?

The Packaging Waste Recovery Note (PRN) or Packaging Waste Export Recovery Note (PERN) is a tradeable certificate used to record and identify packaging waste materials received for recovery or recycling.

The system operates under the Packaging Waste Regulations, established in 1997, whereby obligated companies (businesses that have an annual turnover of more than £2 million and handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging per year) are required to acquire evidence to demonstrate that a certain tonnage of packaging waste has been recycled. The amount of evidence is measured in tonnes of recycling and is proportional to the amount of packaging they handled in the previous year. This is referred to as a packaging obligation.

Why is the PRN/PERN system in need of reform?

The PRN system is meant to see contributions from manufacturers reinvested in recycling in the UK, but the design and opaque nature of the system means that often this investment is not accounted for.

Its design also leads to just over two thirds of our waste materials being exported.

BSDA has long been calling for reform of the current compliance PRN/PERN system. This would lead to more money being invested in UK recycling infrastructure and communications campaigns.

How have BSDA members adapted their packaging to reduce their environmental impact?

BSDA members have been adapting their packaging for years to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint; through initiatives such as light weighting plastic bottles, investing in new factory technology to cut down the amount of transportation required, and new designs to improve and encourage recyclability.

Our members have also been working to increase the use of recycled plastic content in their bottles, and introduced new plant base bottles.

And soft drink companies have been engaged in a number of recycling and anti-litter initiatives across the UK to drive behaviour change.

Why are national governments all taking a different approach and what are these?

Environmental issues were one of the first sections of legislation to be devolved to national governments.

Recent media coverage and campaigns around the issue of plastic waste and marine plastics has led to a groundswell of political support to engage with and tackle the issue. BSDA welcomes this focus and is keen to work with governments and others to increase UK recycling and tackle litter.

Across the UK there are various ongoing work programmes around tackling plastic waste at differing stages:

  • The Scottish Government has committed as part of its Programme for Government to design and implement a DRS
  • The Welsh Government is consulting on tackling waste through Extended Producer Responsibility, including looking ar a DRS, while Plaid Cymru has secured funding for a DRS pilot
  • In Westminster:
    • The Environment Secretary has announced the introduction of a DRS, subject to consultation.
    • His department has also tasked WRAP to propose changes to the PRN system
    • The Chancellor has announced a call for evidence on how the tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste
    • The Prime Minister has launched the 25-Year Environment Plan, which aims to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042

It is vital all governments and departments work together to create a holistic approach which tackles the issue of plastic waste, increases UK recycling and recycling infrastructure, and tackles litter.