Image Credit: Greenpeace

Image Credit: Greenpeace

Over the last six months the media has been inundated with stories regarding Plastic material waste affecting marine life and this had led to discussions on how we can deal with this waste in an environmentally friendly way. The Scottish government had taken the lead by proposing a deposit return system and this has been something that the English government has decided to look at going forward.

As many of you will know it wasn’t that long ago that we had certain systems in place which were similar to the ones being proposed, most notably with the local business Maine Soft Drinks in Northern Ireland and AG Barr in Scotland.

We decided to speak with Jonathan Harkness, director of Maine Soft drinks, a scheme member, to get his views on the viability of such systems being reintroduced. Jonathan stated that his business has changed its bottling technology with some 50% of bottles now being distributed in PET Plastic bottles with other 50% in Glass. At the height of their return system they saw around 85% of bottle being returned, although this required a substantial effort, helped by door to door sales, for them to achieve through collection of old containers.

As the business’s packaging requirements changed and with the introduction of kerbside collection systems this percentage dropped to around 50%. These are figures which are similar to those reported by AG Barr in Scotland before they decided to cancel their deposit system in 2015 due to the introduction of kerbside recycling.

As packaging has changed so have the methods we utilise for its disposal. The introduction of kerbside recycling has resulted in an increase in the volume of material we collect, although from an environmental perspective, the older systems of reusing the containers was more environmentally friendly. We can develop new objectives in order to increase recycling levels but we must be mindful of their impact on the existing systems we have in place.



   - Ian Andrews