Local charities could receive £1 billion in deposits from cans and bottles

30th May 2019

CPRE survey shows 20% of people would donate deposits to charity with a deposit return system

One in five people (20%) using a UK-wide deposit return system would donate deposits they’d paid on drinks cans and bottles to charity all of the time, according to a new survey carried out by ICM Unlimited and published today (30 May) by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) [1]. This could result in annual donations of more than £1 billion to good causes [2].

A further 19% of respondents said they would donate their deposits most of the time, and more than a third (34%) would donate at least some of the time. This could lead to a further £1.3 billion in donations to local charitable causes from the deposits on glass and plastic drinks bottles and aluminium cans, the analysis by CPRE found [3]. The donations could be even higher if drinks cartons and pouches are also included in England’s deposit system – something which Environment Secretary Michael Gove is currently considering.
The countryside charity states that by including an option for the public to donate their deposits – something that is part of most other deposit systems around the world – we could build on the huge success of the carrier bag charge, which, as well as reducing plastic bag usage by over 80%, raised £66 million for good causes in 2016/17 [4]. 
Samantha Harding, litter programme director at CPRE, said: 
‘Not only would the introduction of a UK-wide deposit return system put a stop to most of the environmental damage caused by drinks containers and boost recycling rates in excess of 90%, it could also provide much needed funding for good causes across the country. It is fantastic and really heartening that so many people would be happy to donate their deposits in this way.
‘An effective “all-in” deposit return system will bring an end to the growing disenchantment and scepticism around current recycling methods by doubling current recycling rates. But it’s also evident that the deposit, as well as encouraging the right behaviour in terms of recycling, would allow for people’s generous natures to be realised when it comes to supporting others.’
‘It’s important to ensure that England’s scheme includes every bottle, can, carton and pouch, whatever the shape, size or material. Not only will this halt the devastation caused to our countryside and environment by drinks container pollution, but if every type of drinks packaging is included in the scheme, it could result in more donated deposits, benefiting nature and local communities.’
In the UK, it is estimated that 28 billion single-use glass, plastic and aluminium drinks bottles and cans are sold every year in the UK, according to recent government figures [5]. Due to ineffective waste collection and recycling systems, overall recycling rates in the UK have stagnated at around 45% [6]. This results in a large number of drinks containers either left polluting the countryside, waterways and streets, or being sent for incineration or buried in landfill, rather than recycled.
Through its monetary incentive, an effective UK-wide deposit return system has the potential to boost recycling rates for drinks containers to more than 90%. CPRE highlights that this would significantly reduce the environmental damage they cause, as well as ensuring that the producers of drinks packaging rightfully become financially responsible for the full costs of the waste they create.
Earlier this month the Scottish government announced its plans to introduce a deposit return system for glass, plastic and aluminium drinks containers of all sizes
CPRE is calling for the UK government to build on Scotland’s ambition by introducing a fully comprehensive ‘all-in’ system, including all drinks containers of all sizes and materials, to make sure that England gets the most effective and economically viable deposit system in the world. 
1. The survey was commissioned by CPRE and conducted by ICM Unlimited. ICM interviewed a sample of 2,112 UK adults aged 18+ online using its omnibus service between 27 and 29 March 2019. The results have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults aged 18+. ICM Unlimited is the specialist social and political research division of Walnut Unlimited, the human understanding agency.
The survey results will be available on CPRE’s website after the embargo lifts on Thursday 30 May 2019. 
For an advanced copy of the survey results please email philr@cpre.org.uk
2. CPRE based its analysis, which shows that more than £1 billion would be raised for local charitable causes through donated deposits, based on the following criteria:
  • 20% of respondents from the representative sample of the UK population said that they would donate their deposits all of the time. 
  • The deposit value for a UK-wide deposit return system is very likely to be 20p, as this is the value confirmed by the Scottish government on 8 May 2019.
  • A UK-wide deposit return system achieves a 90% return rate for the 28 billion glass and plastic bottles and aluminium, which government statistics show are sold each year in the UK.
3. Using the above criteria but expecting the 19% of respondents who said they would donate their deposits most of the time, and 34% would donate at least some of the time, to donate half of their deposits collectively.
4. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra): Single-use plastic carrier bags charge: data in England for 2016 to 2017
Almost two-thirds of retailers voluntarily provided additional information on how much they had donated to good causes. These retailers donated over £66 million to good causes amounting to 4 pence for every single-use bag sold by them.
5. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra): Consultation on introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
UK consumers go through an estimated 14 billion plastic drinks bottles, 9 billion drinks cans and 5 billion glass bottles a year.
6. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra): UK Statistics on Waste 2019