Optimising Recycling Policy in the UK: The UK’s Deposit Return Scheme

By Vanessa Charlotte Kükenthal [1], Ben Mitchell [1], Yasmine Mounzer [1], and Abla Rtabi [1]

  [1] Imperial College London

Image from Unsplash, selected by Jas Min

Abstract

A Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is a system where a deposit fee is charged at the point of purchase of a product, typically a beverage container, which is then refunded upon its return. The aim is to encourage consumers to shift from a disposable culture to a circular economy model that promotes the collection, recycling, and reuse of packaging materials. By increasing collection rates, DRSs also aim to address issues of litter and pollution associated with beverage packaging. The success of such schemes depends on identifying the optimal deposit fee to create an effective financial incentive without increasing the initial purchase price more than is necessary.

The UK currently uses kerbside collection to gather and recycle beverage packaging, however Defra will launch a DRS in 2025 with an as of yet unspecified deposit fee (applying to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland). Scotland is launching a devolved scheme in August 2023 which will use a deposit fee of 20p. These schemes need appropriate deposit fee values to reach their collection targets. To this end, this paper presents appropriate deposit values for glass, plastic, and can beverage containers, based on an analysis of the influence of deposit values on consumers’ willingness to return beverage packaging. Using a single-bounded dichotomous choice model and a probit regression, consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for not returning containers is investigated. Results are controlled for socio-demographic and habitual impacts.

The expected WTP equals £0.17, £0.19, and £0.19 for glass, plastic, and cans, with upper confidence bounds of £0.21, £0.25, and £0.25 respectively. The study also found that the most important barriers to the DRS are the lack of space in people’s homes to store the containers and the disbelief in the overall recycling system. Therefore, for effective operation and adherence to the precautionary principle, this study recommends that the deposit management organisation should implement a flexible deposit value higher than £0.21 for glass bottles, £0.25 for plastic bottles, and £0.25 for cans. The findings of this review can inform the implementation of the planned beverage container DRS in the UK and help ensure its success in increasing collection rates and promoting a sustainable circular economy model.

Science to Policy Statement

This review elaborates on the required deposit value to make the UK’s Deposit Return Scheme effective. This scheme is to be introduced in Wales, England, and Northern Ireland in 2025 and will impose a deposit on glass and plastic bottles as well as cans which will be given back upon return of the beverage container. Combining results from previous studies with scientific literature in this review can inform the implementation of the planned beverage container Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in the UK and help ensure its success in increasing collection rates and promoting a sustainable circular economy model.

Key Words

Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), recycling, DEFRA, beverage containers

Background

Linked to consumerism and consumption based cultures, the prevalence and environmental damage potential of single use materials and litter has contributed to the need for a transition to a circular economy and increased material recycling [1]. A policy widely adopted in Europe that aims to promote a circular economy approach is a deposit return scheme, commonly abbreviated as DRS [2]. DRSs are often utilised to address beverage containers. They aim to shift consumer behaviour regarding beverage containers from a throw-away culture to a circular economic closed-loop model. In this model, the material used in the packaging can be recycled and reused as the same product or alternatively reprocessed into a different product. DRSs have shown positive results from cost-benefit analyses and life-cycle assessments [3], [4], [5], [6], [7]. Historically, they have been used for glass bottle recycling collection, although they are becoming increasingly put in place for plastic bottles and aluminium and steel cans, as these beverage containers are the source of a large volume of waste that is environmentally damaging, notably through leaching of microplastics into water bodies and soil.

A DRS imposes a deposit fee upon purchase of the targeted item, which is refunded once the item is returned. In the case of beverage containers, a charge is added to the price of the beverage and the proceeds are separately held in a deposit fund. This deposit acts as a variant of a pollution charge [8], as the consumer is effectively levied for the product’s pollution potential at purchase. An externality is the impact, positive or negative of the consumption or production of a good that affects the environment, public, or individuals that are not parties within the transaction [9]. Through the deposit, the potential environmental externality, if the container is discarded as litter, is thereby internalised according to the polluter pays principle. The potential environmental damage and other costs of litter (health impacts, clean-up costs, biodiversity loss) are internalised and borne by the consumer if they do not return the container. Only upon the return of the container can the consumer reclaim the deposit, therefore recovering the deposit only in the case that the potential externality has not occurred [8].

The primary result of a DRS is the creation of a financial incentive for consumers to return the containers to raise collection and recycling rates; thus, in turn reducing the environmental damage, such as marine microplastic pollution, caused by the littering of such packaging [7], [10], [11]. This incentive for consumer collection creates an informal voluntary recycling sector for beverage container waste [12]. Such schemes have been very successful globally, with significant positive impacts on collection rates in Australia, Ecuador, and the USA among many others [7], [13]. A key aspect of the success of a DRS is correctly pricing the
deposit to enable it to act effectively as a financial incentive for consumers to return the container without leading to issues of product affordability [14].

Currently, 72% of beverage containers in the UK are recycled through kerbside collection [15]. On the 20th of January 2023, the UK government announced a planned beverage container DRS to start in 2025 (hereafter referred to as the Defra Scheme) [16]. The primary aim of the scheme is to achieve a beverage container collection rate of 70% within the first year, 80% in the second year, and 90% in the third, with each material reaching a collection rate of a minimum of 85% to prevent one container type subsidising others [17]. This aims to increase recycling to progress towards a circular economy and reduce plastic pollution in the UK’s waterways, green spaces, and beaches [16], [18], [19]. Reverse vending machines will be used as the primary container receptacles and will be placed in retailers’ locations; as the return points will be the same retail locations where the initial applicable products are sold the UK DRS will operate as a return-to-retail (RTR) DRS. In England and Northern Ireland, only PET plastic and metal beverage containers will be included in the scheme, whereas in Wales glass beverage containers will also be collected [16]. The scheme will be administered by an independent Deposit Management Organisation (DMO) led by industry and government participants who will be responsible for setting the deposit value (DV), considering social, economic, and environmental impacts, including affordability for consumers [17].

This scheme only applies to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as Scotland has
a devolved DRS coming into force earlier, in August 2023 [20]. Scotland’s scheme aims to achieve collection rates of 90% and similarly to utilise voluntary retailer-based return receptacles [20]. It covers beverage containers made of PET plastic, glass, and metal, and its planned DV numbers £0.20 per container, whereas the planned DV for Defra’s scheme is yet unspecified. Given the importance of the DV to a DRS’s success, the primary aim of this study is to ascertain effective DVs for the Defra DRS (that will likely meet its 70% collection rate first-year target for each material). Survey respondent’s willingness to return containers to reclaim the deposit will be assessed through their willingness-to-pay to not have to return the container. Willingness-to-pay (WTP) is the income an individual or group is willing to pay for a good or service and can be utilised in contingent valuation methods to reveal market prices for environmental goods that are not traded on markets [21].

Many DRS operating in other countries, which reached the targets that the UK DRS set itself, have set higher DVs than the announced £0.20 for the Scottish DRS (especially when adjusted for inflation) [13]. For instance, Germany with 37p reached a 98% recycling rate [13]. Therefore, this paper hypothesizes that this value would be too low to be transferrable to the UK, suggesting that it may need to exceed £0.20 for the DRS to meet its targeted collection rates. The success of the value is determined by its ability to evoke a 70% collection rate in the first year, as this achievement forecasts an 80% and 90% (at least 85%) in year two and three, respectively [17]. This applies to all beverage container materials covered. Concluding, the hypothesis assumes that a DV of £0.20 will be unsuccessful in reaching a 70% collection rate in the first year of the UK’s DRS implementation for all container materials.

Literature Review

Multiple studies have been performed within this area of research, investigating different aspects of a potential DRS in the UK. Oke et al. [5] conducted a sentiment analysis on comments posted online under BBC articles pertaining to the introduction of a DRS in Scotland by members of the public to assess consumers’ views on the introduction and judge its probability of effectiveness. The study reported numerous findings: public perceptions of the DRS were not always positive, with issues such as increased inconvenience, perception of the DRS as a disguised tax or overly targeting consumers rather than producers, large costs for small rural retailers, impracticality due to a lack of UK-wide coordination, and the potential for consumers to switch to DRS exempt online retailers. Contrastingly, there were positive public perceptions primarily linked to the environmental benefits of a DRS and the success of similar schemes in other countries. Overall, the study drew multiple conclusions on the likely effectiveness of a DRS in Scotland. Firstly, the effectiveness may vary regionally, secondly, there are doubts over the sustainability of the scheme given that kerbside collection exists for beverage packaging recycling and there may be hidden environmental costs such as the use of internal-combustion transport options to return containers to the retailers, thirdly, informing the public is key as a large volume of comments were ill-informed, and finally, a coordinated UK-wide scheme may be more effective.

A second study conducted by Snowden [15] assessed the suitability of a DRS for the UK (excluding Scotland) from an economic and financial viability perspective. The study used Defra’s consultation report and cost-benefit analysis to analyse the suitability of the UK DRS and assess its effectiveness. The main conclusion of the study was that a DRS in the UK would not be financially cost-effective due to several flaws within Defra’s cost-benefit analysis. Although Defra referenced it, the potentially considerable cost to consumers in terms of time and labour (linked to collection and return) was not valuated and omitted from the cost-benefit analysis. Similarly, potential minor costs such as loss of retailer revenue due to loss of floor space, increased cost to consumers due to businesses passing on additional costs caused by scheme compliance, and loss of revenue from sales of collected recycling for local authorities all reduce the cost-effectiveness of a DRS and have not been accounted for by Defra. Finally, the study noted that the increase in collection rates would be limited to approximately 10% due to the prevalence of existing kerbside collection, an increase that does not offset the £400-900 million initial investment required to set up the DRS. Defra published a consultation on a similar topic, valuing the potential benefits of a DRS in the UK in terms of litter reduction [17]. The underlying study was conducted by eftec [22] and utilised stated preference dichotomous-choice and discrete-choice experiment methodologies to estimate citizens’ WTP additional council tax for a corresponding increase in beverage packaging litter removal [14].

Whilst Oke et al. [5] and Snowden [15] highlight potential application issues of UK DRSs and limitations of their effectiveness, neither aim to address the DV directly as this paper’s study will. They also do not assess the impact of sociodemographic characteristics on the WTP for not having to return beverage containers to collection points, which this study seeks to do. The first study utilised qualitative data in the form of public comments and a sentiment analysis whereas the second used a cost-benefit approach. The Defra commissioned research used methods similar to this study but focussed on WTP for reduced beverage-container littering, rather than the DRS’s effectiveness probability and the DV. This study will fill this gap in the literature, by applying a single-bounded dichotomous-choice (SBDC) WTP survey methodology to assess the effectiveness of a DRS in the UK and ascertain an effective DV.

This method has been previously applied to similar research topics. Specifically, research has assessed consumers’ WTP for recycling services other than DRSs. Cai et al. [23] investigated Chinese consumers’ WTP for the recycling of electronic waste. The study used a SBDC method and obtained 474 responses before analysing the responses using a multi-variate logit regression model performed using STATA and calculating the estimated average WTP. An estimated monthly average WTP of 1.60USD was obtained from the survey results. A clear issue with consumer-based recycling of e-waste was raised, as most respondents refused to pay, and instead suggested funding should be provided by the government or industry. The model also allowed for investigation of the impact of socio-demographic characteristics on WTP: WTP was found to be correlated with environmental values and income. Blaine et al. [24] used the SBDC method to assess households’ WTP for kerbside collection (recycling) in Florida, USA. Two contingent valuations were undertaken, a payment card method, and a SBDC method as used in the first study. A probit regression was conducted to analyse the payment card responses and a binary logit regression to analyse the SBDC responses. The results revealed influences of age, gender, and income with WTP alongside a decrease in the probability of WTP with increasing bid values.

These studies show that the SBDC method can be successfully utilised to ascertain WTP estimates for consumer recycling and to assess influences of sociodemographic characteristics, both of which are aims of this study. No research had previously applied this method to the impending UK DRS; a research gap filled by the data underlying this review.

Methodology

To investigate the pricing strategy for a beverage container DRS in the UK, the underlying study examined consumers’ WTP for not having to return a bottle to a retailer collection point. This was conducted for glass bottles, plastic bottles, and cans separately. Note, that cans can be made from steel, aluminium, or other metals and are summarised under the collection term ‘cans’, as consumers cannot easily differentiate between materials. Although investigating the minimum compensation that meets individuals’ Willingness-to-Accept (WTA) in exchange for giving up the comfort of recycling at home may seem more intuitive, WTP was chosen. This is because WTA is significantly biased towards overestimation [25].

Accordingly, models were chosen with caution to overestimation biases. This study measured the WTP for a hypothetical price, i.e., no real economic commitment was made by the participants. When measuring hypothetical WTP, the “hypothetical bias” remains, i.e., the difference to individuals’ real WTP [26]. As indirect methods overestimate WTP more than direct methods [27], [26] this study followed a direct Stated Preference technique, i.e., it assessed preferences through asking participants for explicit information about their preferences. For this purpose, respondents were asked to explicitly choose between the statements “Yes” and “No”. As the dependent variable takes on one of two possible values, this contingent valuation format constitutes a singlebounded dichotomous choice (SBDC) method, which was used to obtain binary choice data. The term “single-bounded” refers to the fact that respondents are only given one opportunity to choose between the two options. The model estimates the probability that a respondent will choose the “Yes” option, based on a set of explanatory variables. Here, the effect of the bid, i.e., the amount of the DV, is of particular interest. Note that SBDC was chosen over the double-bounded model where one follow-up question is given. This was to avoid overstatements of individuals’ WTP caused by follow-up bias in hypothetical scenarios, which the double-bounded model is more prone to [28]. Table 1 shows the applied bid options per material.

Table 1. Hypothetical Deposit Values Used as Bids for SBDC Questions per Material in GBP.

The underlying data was collected via email and social media platforms over 3-weeks1. Participation was voluntary and limited to respondents over 18 that resided in the UK.

To estimate the WTP, the dichotomous answers Yi,m of respondent i for the type of container m to the bid value ti,m are used to calculate the probability of the answer “Yes” (Yi,m=1) using a multivariate probit regression. The probability is influenced by independent variables which are expressed by the vector zi,m. Note that respondent i will answer “Yes” when his WTPi,m is higher than the displayed bid value ti,mi.e., WTPi,m > ti,m. The probability is given by

Data

Demographic Characteristics.91.5% of respondents currently residing in England with 71.6% of respondents being Gen Z, and 57.8% being female. More than 50.0% of the respondents were students, potentially explaining why 43.5% of respondents had a gross annual income of less than £12,000. Regarding the mode of transportation to the nearest grocery store, walking was used by 75.4% with around half of the respondents (48.5%) requiring between 6 and 15 minutes to get there with their chosen mode of transport. Appendix 1 contains the demographic characteristics of the survey sample.

Attitudinal Characteristics. The results of the attitudinal characteristics questions are described in Table 3. Amongst all three materials, 93.2%, 71.7%, and 77.6% of the population bought less than five glass bottles, plastic bottles, and cans per week respectively, while 1.3%, 1.7%, and 2.5% bought more than 16 respectively. This indicates that glass was the least popular container type with the highest percentage for less than five weekly purchases and the lowest for more than 16.

As for recycling habits, 84.0% of the participants were likely to recycle, 51.9% extremely likely and only 5.9% extremely unlikely. Moreover, affiliation with environmentally focused institutions was 60.3%. Appendix 2 contains specific attitudinal characteristics of the sample.

Table 2 lists and describes the variables used as part of the analysis.

Table 2. List of abbreviations and descriptions of variables used as part of the analysis.

Results

The probit regression results are as follows. For glass, A one-unit increase in the bidg is
associated with a 0.02 decrease in the probability of not willing to bring a glass bottle back to the grocery store, cet. par. In other words, as the DV increases, people are more willing to return their glass bottles. The remaining parameter estimates appear to be insignificant with p-values below 0.05.

For plastic, a one-unit increase in the value of bidp is associated with a 0.01 decrease in the probability of not willing to bring the plastic bottles back to the grocery store, cet. par. In contrast to glass, the relationships between age and WTP and income and WTP are also significant at the 95%-level of confidence for plastic with both p-values=0.01. The marginal effects show that a one- unit increase in age is associated with a 0.01 decrease in the probability of not willing to bring the plastic bottles back to the grocery store while a unit increase in income is associated with a 0.10 increase, cet. par. This means that the older
people are, the more willing they are to return plastic bottles and the more income
people have, the less willing they are to do so.

For cans, a one-unit increase in the value of bidc is associated with a 0.01 decrease in the probability of not willing to bring cans back to the grocery store, cet. par. Like for plastic, a one-unit increase in cpur is associated with a 0.01 decrease in the probability of not willing to bring back the containers to the grocery store. A one-unit increase in cpur causes a 0.023 increase in the WTP probability, cet. par.

Table 3 shows the expected WTP values using the probit regression results for each material. Overall, people are willing to pay £0.17, £0.19, and £0.19 not to return their glass bottles, plastic bottles, and cans, respectively. Note that the upper limits of the confidence interval for these estimates are £0.21, £0.25, and £0.25 for glass, plastic and, cans respectively.

Table 3. WTP Estimation for All Materials. Note. CI = confidence interval; LL = lower limit; UL = upper limit. Source: Own study.

Table 4 shows rationales for respondents’ unwillingness to return their beverage containers. The most common barrier to the uptake of the DRS is the perceived lack of space in people’s homes to store the containers, with 46% of respondents rating this motive three or more out of five in importance. Another common barrier is the disbelief in the recycling system. In fact, 41% of respondents identified it as an impactful motive.

Table 4. Motives for consistent WTP. Note. 69 respondents answered “Yes” to all three WTP questions. Motive is classified as impactful if respondent rated above three out of five. Source: Own study.

Discussion

Interpretation of results. This study primarily aimed to establish appropriate DVs for the impending UK DRS for glass, plastic, and can beverage containers by estimating the influence of the DV on consumers’ willingness to return beverage packaging. As anticipated and in line with similar studies [24], [29], the results show a negative impact of the DV on respondents’ WTP. In a broader context, this implies that consumers’ recycling actions are motivated by financial incentives. Hence, the higher the DV set by the UK DRS, the more willing citizens will be to return their beverage containers. According to the multivariate probit regression analysis, estimated consumer WTPs are £0.17, £0.19, and £0.19 for glass, plastic, and cans respectively. The upper limits of the 95%-confidence interval are £0.21, £0.25, and £0.25 respectively. In environmental policy, uncertainties about the impact of human activity on harming the environment or the public should be met with risk-mitigating efforts as stated by the precautionary principle [30]. Applying this, the upper limit of the confidence interval reduces the risk of environmental damage caused by littering. Therefore, the DV for the UK DRS should be set above £0.21 for glass, £0.25 for plastic bottles, and £0.25 for cans, to exceed citizens’ WTP.

The results of this study show that certain attitudinal and socio-demographic factors also have an impact on WTP. For both plastic bottles and cans, an increase in respondents’ age was found to be associated with a decrease in WTP. This implies that the older people are, the more willing they are to return plastic bottles and cans to the retailer. While Vining and Ebreo [31] and Lansana [32] also concluded that older individuals are in general more likely to recycle, Ferreira & Marques [29] as well as Folz and Hazlett [33] found that age decreases recycling behaviour and Oskamp et al. [34] found no relationship at all. Hence, the impact that age has on recycling appears ambiguous, as also indicated by Schultz et al. [35], which could justify why the present study found no statistical relationship between the two for glass.

Moreover, income was shown to have a significant positive impact on WTP for plastic only. This suggests that the higher people’s income is, the less willing they are to return their bottles, which contradicts existing studies around recycling behaviour. In fact, Jacobs et al. [36], Vining and Ebreo [31], Oskamp et al. [34] all found that income had a positive impact on recycling behaviour. According to Seng et al. [37], richer individuals are more likely to recycle because they tend to be more educated and more aware of recycling practices. Furthermore, they have more space in their homes to store used recyclable materials [38]. The positive influence found by the present study indicates that a DV does not motivate people with higher income to bring their plastic beverage containers back to the store. The absence of a significant impact of income on WTP for glass bottles and cans could be due to the limited income range–with 44% of respondents earning less than £12,000.

Unlike age and income, gender showed no statistical relationship with WTP across all three materials. Five studies that also explored this relationship, reached the same conclusion [31], [34], [39], [40]. Schultz, Oskamp and Mainieri [35] explain that “because recycling is often a household behaviour, the person doing the recycling on a given occasion may be replaced by a person of the opposite gender on other occasions.” Education was also found to have no statistical relationship with WTP, and this refutes previous studies that have reported a positive relationship with recycling behaviour. According to both Prestin et al. [41] and Seng et al. [36], individuals with medium- or high-level education are more aware of the environmental benefits of recycling and are therefore more inclined to respond positively to recycling initiatives. The disparate results of the present study may be due to the limited range of education levels included in the sample–with 85% of respondents having at least an undergraduate degree.

Notably, the findings reveal no significant impact on WTP of either recycling behaviour or affiliation to environmental institutions. In the literature, a “stronger environmental self-identity” is often seen as a robust indicator of green behaviours such as recycling [42], [43], [44], [45], [46]. The present study’s contrasting results could be justified by the idea that as “more people recycle today and doing so for more reasons than just altruistic concern for the environment, the relationship between general environmental concern and recycling seems to have diminished” [35].

Employment also showed no significant impact on WTP, contradicting existing studies. In fact, Fiorillo [47] observes that retired individuals in Italy recycle all materials to a greater extent than employed people as they have more time. The results of the present study could be inconclusive as employment statuses are not represented realistically with 52% of the respondents being students, only 33% working full-time, and 4% being retired. Furthermore, no significant relationship was discovered between transport-mode and WTP and travel-time and WTP. This also is in opposition with the literature which indicates a positive relationship with WTP. Long travel-time and uncomfortable transportmodes are barriers to recycling as they increase the amount of effort needed to recycle. According to McDonald et al. [48], the level of compromise a consumer sees as required to recycle has a considerable impact on the likelihood this consumer will get involved in recycling initiatives. Furthermore, Hage, Söderholm and Berglund [49] shows that short distances to recycling facilities encouraged recycling. The fact that 91% of respondents live less than 15 minutes away from the grocery store and that 75% walk explain an insignificant impact on WTP.

Regarding the barriers to DRS, the study identified to primary concerns. First, a lack of space at home and second, a lack of belief in the recycling system deterred individuals from returning their beverage containers. In fact, Oluwadipe et al. [38] concludes that physical barriers, and communication and public-engagement barriers have the strongest influences on recycling. These are important factors that the UK should consider when designing the DRS. This idea that a lack of space at home is an essential predictor of WTP, could be used to explain why the present study found no statistical relationship between the number of glass and plastic bottles purchased and WTP. Intuitively, one would expect that the more bottles a consumer purchases, the more willing this consumer will be to return them as the DV will be high. However, as more bottles are bought, more space is required to store them, and this may counteract the decrease in the WTP resulting from higher total deposits spent. Analogously, according to Zhou et al. [4]

DRS are only convenient for consumers that are redeeming a relatively small number of containers. Concluding, these motives of unwillingness to recycle pose important factors to be considered when designing the UK DRS.

Policy recommendations. The following policy recommendations will affect the DRS’s stakeholders. As presented by Defra [16], the Defra DRS only applies to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Its regulations will impose obligations on all participants, including producers2, retailers3, and the Deposit Management Organisation (DMO). Producers are required to display the DV on their beverage containers and pay the producer registration fee to the DMO fund. They will have to register with and report data to the DMO. As for the retailers, they will need to add the DV to the purchase price and ensure a clear display of the pricing information breakdown (DV versus beverage price). As for the DMO, it will oversee the scheme’s overall operation and ensure that the collection targets are met. It further has the power to set the DV. Lastly, consumers’ recycling and storing of recyclable materials will be influenced. Therefore, recommendations will be targeted at the DMO and considering impacts on producers, retailers, and consumers.

The precautionary principle should be applied for setting the DVs to reach the Defra scheme’s long-term targets. The collection target will be introduced in phases, with 70% in year one, 80% in year two, and 90% from year three and beyond [18]. The results discussed indicate that uncertainties that threaten the scheme’s success, potentially leading to environmental damage, should be reduced. Therefore, the upper limits of the 95%-confidence intervals are recommendable to set DVs: £0.21 for glass bottles, £0.25 for plastic bottles, and £0.25 for cans.

The DMO will have the power to set these DVs and it was suggested to be provided with some flexibility in meeting its collection target, which infers flexibility in setting the deposit rate [17]. Here, flexibility is advantageous as a flat deposit rate could be problematic in the long-term due to the possibility of diverging real DVs (referring to the inflation adjustment of DVs in Appendix A) and their impacts on consumers’ purchasing and recycling habits [14]. Therefore, it is recommendable to give the DMO the flexibility to increase the price over time above the £0.21, £0.25, and £0.25 for glass bottles, plastic bottles, and cans respectively to account for potential future habit-changes and inflation.

Furthermore, to increase the effectiveness of the scheme, barriers to its uptake should be reduced. Here, the results indicate that consumers’ motives for a constant unwillingness to pay is most impacted by a perceived lack of space to store the beverage containers and distrust in the recycling system. To decrease the WTP and thereby make the set DVs more effective, these barriers should be lowered, for instance through public recycling effectiveness campaigns or the distribution of leaflets suggesting space-efficient storing approaches.

Conclusion

Deposit return schemes (DRS) are used to increase collection rates of beverage containers, limiting their environmental damage from littering. Defra is launching a DRS for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 2025 and Scotland independently in August 2023. This review indicated a strong negative impact of the deposit value on WTP for all materials. Socio-demographic and attitudinal factors, such as age, income, and the number of bottles purchased per week, also had an impact on WTP for certain materials. Accounting for this information, the study estimated the expected WTP to be equal to £0.17, £0.19, and £0.19 for glass, plastic, and cans, with upper confidence bounds of £0.21, £0.25, and £0.25 respectively. The study also found that the most important barriers to the DRS are the lack of space in people’s homes to store the containers and the disbelief in the overall recycling system. Therefore, for effective operation and adherence to the precautionary principle, this study recommends that the deposit management organisation should implement a flexible deposit value higher than £0.21 for glass bottles, £0.25 for plastic bottles, and £0.25 for cans. Further, public recycling effectiveness campaigns or the distribution of leaflets suggesting space-efficient storing approaches were suggested to reduce the found barriers to DRS uptake. This study faces limitations because of the ambiguous nature of the dichotomous-question design and of the sample bias with overrepresentation of English and environmentalist respondents, limiting the generalisability of the findings.

Footnotes

  1. 17.02.2023 – 09.03.2023
  2. Owners or manufacturers of drinks of in-scope containers that are then sold in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, and includes those persons who import drinks containers to put on the market.
  3. People who sell an in-scope container directly to a consumer in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

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About the Authors

Vanessa Charlotte Kükenthal

Vanessa studied a B.Sc. in Business Administration at the University of Mannheim and the University of Hong Kong. While interning at the ZEW department for environmental and resource economics, she published “Perception of Climate Change in Germany: Evidence from the Socio-Ecological Panel” in the Zeitschrift für Energiewirtschaft (2021). After working for the environmental economics consultancy eftec in London, she now studies the M.Sc. in Environmental Technology at Imperial College London, specialising in Environmental Economics and Policy.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0009-0000-9350-7916
Corresponding address: vanessa@kuekenthal.eu

Ben Mitchell

Ben studied Zoology at Aberystwyth University, achieving a first-class B.Sc. degree whilst also completing multiple overseas internships in the field of wildlife conservation as part of his studies. After undertaking a gap year to complete a further two internships in this field, he began studying for an M.Sc. in Environmental Technology at Imperial College London, specialising in Environmental Economics with a view to applying such methods to Wildlife Conservation.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0009-0009-3276-3989
Corresponding address: bmit@flutesteps.uk

Yasmine Mounzer

Yasmine is an Electrical and Computer Engineer (ECE) who graduated with high distinction in 2022. Her final year project on the Design and Techno-Economic Analysis of a PV Solar Power Plant Powering Municipal Services in Rechmaya, Lebanon earned her the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering (MSFEA) 2022 Exceptional ECE FYP Award. Driven by her passion for environmental sustainability, Yasmine is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Environmental Technology at Imperial College London, where she focuses on Environmental Economics and Policy. With her strong technical skills and dedication to creating positive change, Yasmine is poised to make a significant impact in the field.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0009-0000-1081-6052
Corresponding address: Yasmine.mounzer@gmail.com

Abla Rtabi

Abla is currently an MSc student at Imperial College London, studying Environmentally Technology. She specializes in Environmental Economics and has a strong interest in Eco-innovations and Energy. Abla holds a bachelor’s degree in Business with a co-concentration in Statistics and Marketing from NYU Stern. She also has work experience in Pricing Analytics.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0009-0006-5601-2950
Corresponding address: Ablartabi@hotmail.fr

Conflict of interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.