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Recycling: Plastics

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 15 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what consideration has been given to the relative environmental merits of plastic milk bottles and re-usable glass bottles; and if he will make a statement; (162975)

(2) whether consideration has been given to the introduction of deposits on glass and plastic bottles; and if he will make a statement.

My Department has not made any assessment of the merits of using plastic milk bottles or re-usable glass bottles. Assessing the most sustainable option for packaging containers will depend on a number of factors, including transport and the re-use or recycling of materials.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is currently undertaking a life-cycle analysis of milk packaging, which will look at the various different glass and plastic options and will include consideration of the impact of returnable packaging systems. This project is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2008. WRAP is also working with local authorities and manufacturers to increase recycling of both glass and plastic bottles.

A deposit system for bottles has an obvious appeal to the public, however there would be difficulties in implementing such a system in the UK. In 2004, DEFRA commissioned a project to evaluate whether a deposit system could provide additional value, in combination with the current packaging waste recovery system established in the UK, to achieve wider EC Directive targets. This work took into account existing deposit and return schemes in Europe, the USA and Canada.

The report's conclusion was that a deposit scheme may not achieve our overall environmental goals since such systems favour packaging formats that do not necessarily deliver environmental benefits.

A deposit scheme would be extremely expensive when compared to the existing UK packaging system, which uses a market mechanism and a tradable “packaging waste recovery note” (PRN). This system is reputedly the most cost-effective system in Europe for implementing the Packaging Directive.