Clearer labelling and deposit return schemes part of plans to boost recycling

  • Video report by ITV News correspondent Geraint Vincent

Deposit return schemes could be introduced for bottles, cans, and disposable cups as part of a new government waste strategy for England.

The strategy would also mean producers will pay the full net costs of disposing or recycling their packaging, up from a contribution of 10%. This money would go to councils to help them improve waste and recycling systems.

It is hoped that with the industry having to pay higher fees if their products are harder to reuse or recycle, it will encourage more sustainable design.

Under the plans, which are subject to a consultation, there would also be:

  • Weekly food waste collections for every home

  • Clearer and consistent labelling on packaging to show if it can be recycled - such as a "green dot"

  • A consistent set of recyclable materials which all councils will be expected to pick up from homes and businesses

  • A return to free garden waste collections for households with gardens

The new waste and resources strategy comes after the latest figures for England revealed household recycling rates have all but flat-lined in recent years, and amid widespread concern over waste such as single-use plastics.

As well as paying for disposing or recycling their packaging, manufacturers could also have to pay for dealing with waste textiles, vehicle tyres and mattresses, in the same way they currently do for items such as batteries and electrical goods.

The Environment Department said the new strategy will raise between £500 million and £1 billion a year for recycling and disposing of rubbish.

Ministers will consult on a deposit return scheme to boost recycling of bottles, cans and disposable coffee cups, and on introducing annual reporting of food waste by businesses - with mandatory targets if progress is not made on curbing the problem.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "We really need to shift the dial on recycling and our strategy will help make that happen.

"We'll make sure producers pay more in order to use the material that goes to generate all this waste.

"And we will use that money to ensure that across every local authority, we've got a more consistent approach to recycling that will help citizens know exactly what they should put in which bin.

"As a result, we will improve recycling in this country and use all resources more efficiently."

Michael Gove on a visit to a waste management facility in Southwark. Credit: PA

Waste and resource company Veolia's chief technology and innovation officer Richard Kirkman described the move to make producers pay for dealing their waste as a "game changer".

He said: "We've all grown up over the past 20 years with different collection systems in different parts of the country, with different bins, and materials have different labelling on them to tell you if they can be recycled or not.

"It's now time to make collections more harmonised across the country, so wherever you live you know what you can recycle, it's time to put in food waste collections, it's time for industry to start paying for some of the materials it produces."

Martin Tett, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents town halls, welcomed the moves for businesses to pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging.

But he warned: "Moves to standardise waste services, including weekly food collections, need to be fully funded.

"Not every council area is currently able to recycle everything due to long-term contracts being held with different companies with different infrastructure available.

"Therefore, upfront funding is vital to making this work."

He added any new system must be phased in over time and councils allowed to make sure their local services worked for residents.

Weekly food waste collections could be introduced for every home. Credit: PA