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Deposit Return Scheme

Volume 642: debated on Thursday 7 June 2018

1. Whether he has had discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on introducing a deposit return scheme. (905701)

Tomorrow, a team from AB InBev brewery and Keep Wales Tidy will again be out cleaning up the shores of the Severn estuary, which highlights the very urgent action that is needed to protect our environment from the devastating impact of plastic pollution. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has Treasury backing for a deposit return scheme, and when will we see some action?

We have already seen formidable action to embrace the opportunities that a deposit return scheme would provide and to ensure that we deal with the environmental damage the hon. Lady mentioned. I should take this opportunity to say that it is not just the Treasury that recognises the importance of acting, but our colleagues in the Scottish and Welsh Governments, with whom we have had collaborative successful discussions as well.

Is it not true that this project need not cost the Treasury any money whatsoever, and that we should just get on with it?

No one is keener on getting on with things, and indeed on saving money, than my right hon. Friend, whose own record in government is one of the most distinguished over the past seven years—and, in fact, beyond. He is absolutely right: in delay there lies no plenty.

Keep Wales Tidy does a great job in Blaenau Gwent, too. What steps are the Government taking to address the problem of plastic waste at the manufacturer level?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. We already have our plastics pact, which has been agreed by WRAP—the Waste and Resources Action Programme—a charity that we support. That commitment was made by leading companies across the United Kingdom to ensure that they use less virgin material, and that more of the plastic they use is recycled or recyclable. We are also thinking hard about reform of the producer responsibility note scheme, and we will be saying more about that later.

When looking at international comparisons of best practice for deposit return schemes, which countries is the Secretary of State looking at most closely?

No country has a perfect model, but we have looked at examples in Scandinavia. One of the things that those countries have been so successful in achieving is a phenomenal level of return—and, indeed, high levels of recycling. We need to think carefully about the nature of drinking and the pattern of consumption in the United Kingdom to see what exactly would work and go with the grain of consumption habits here.

Beyond incentives such as the deposit scheme, what discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Chancellor about improving the UK’s recycling infrastructure so that we can recycle a wider range of products, such as coffee cups and microwave oven-ready cartons?

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has initiated a review of the taxation and treatment of single-use plastics overall. One of the things we want to do is to make sure that the money that producers remit as a result of using particular materials is used to ensure improved recycling across the country. I know that Treasury Ministers—not just my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, but the Exchequer Secretary—are working hard on these matters.