Environment Bill - Committee (5th Day)

– in the House of Lords at 2:32 pm on 5th July 2021.

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Relevant documents: 3rd Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 4th Report from the Constitution Committee

Schedule 8: Deposit schemes

Debate on Amendment 133 resumed.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, even after a five-day interval and in a debate truncated by a perhaps now unnecessary withdrawal of a number of noble Lords. For the convenience of the Committee, I remind everyone that we are speaking about amendments that are all about the long-awaited and much-delayed bottle deposit scheme for England, an area in which we are notably world leading in foot dragging.

I shall give a few statistics. Ten other countries in Europe are operating these schemes, with bottle-recycling success rates running from an outstanding 98.5% in Germany, where of course they have had lots of practice since they started in 2003. Even down at the bottom of the pack, Estonia has a very respectable—certainly by our standards—83.7% bottle return rate. That is why Amendment 133, which sets a deadline for implementation, is so important, and I would have attached my name to it had there been space. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that it should be earlier still; it could have been delivered years ago, but January 2023 is practical. It certainly should not be left outside the term of this current Government—assuming of course that they continue for that long.

I want to speak in support of all the amendments in this group, with the partial exception of Amendment 134B, which would exempt small brewers. That is not because I do not think we need to consider such small producers, but rather that Amendment 134A in the names of the same noble Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is broader and more useful, covering all kinds of producers. There clearly needs to be some easy and simple way for start-up businesses, such as brewers or soft drink or juice producers, to access the scheme. One route might be to require larger companies to allow smaller companies to piggyback on their schemes.

I will focus my contribution on Amendment 134, which appears in my name. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for her expression of support for the amendment. As with the earlier amendment on nappies, I declare the support from the aluminium industry association, Alupro, in preparing and discussing this amendment. I am sure that many noble Lords are aware that, for all the UK’s inadequate performance on recycling, it does relatively well in recycling aluminium compared to other materials, for reasons including the value of the material, with aluminium packaging recycling reaching its highest ever rate in 2020, with 68% of the material placed on the market being recycled. That includes 82% of all aluminium beverage cans. Of course, this is a material that can be recycled indefinitely, unlike most plastic.

We should not forget that the best option, at the top of the waste pyramid, is to reduce packaging materials and have no container at all, followed then by reusing packaging. But for recycling, aluminium is a good choice. Alupro put it to me—and I see the force of the argument—that a scheme with a flat deposit amount for all containers, regardless of the size of the material, would lead to switching from multipacks of aluminium cans to larger format plastic bottles, due to the cumulative cost of the deposit fee on multipacks. For example, a 20p flat deposit fee would add £4.80 to a 24-pack of cans, yet the deposit fee for the same volume of liquid in four plastic bottles would be just 80p. A 2019 poll of consumers found that a 20p flat deposit fee would encourage more than 60% of individuals to switch to large PET bottles at the expense of aluminium.

Alupro commissioned the research consultancy London Economics to look at consumer behaviour and the differential impacts of a flat or variable rate scheme. It found that the variable rate, as used in the successful Nordic schemes, would deliver significantly higher return rates in the first two years, while a flat-rate deposit would increase the amount of plastic sold and could lead to higher amounts of product wastage and increased portion sizes, which has an obvious impact on public health. It would also have a dramatic impact on the aluminium packaging sector, meaning up to 4.7 billion fewer cans, a very significant loss of revenue, and somewhere between 24% to 73% reduction in demand for aluminium cans in large multipacks. This is an industry with a case, and the practical sense of the bottle deposit varying according to the size of container is evident. Having seen such variable schemes in operation in various parts of Europe, with the scanning of bar-codes expected anyway to be part of the scheme, I think it presents no practical difficulties.

I know that the Minister, in the letter that he kindly sent to noble Lords on Friday afternoon, said—I paraphrase—“Let’s leave it to regulation and the implementation stage”. But why? Why not set out the basic ground rules now, in the Bill, to make sure that the scheme we get is fit for purpose and to give manufacturers time to prepare for implementation of the scheme as speedily as possible? That is what the very important Amendment 133, with which we started this group, seeks to attain.

Photo of Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative

My Lords, I declare my interests as stated in the register. I am pleased, as always, to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, although I regret that the mover of the lead amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, spoke five days ago; I had to look up Hansard to remember what she said. I have some sympathy with her Amendment 133, and agree that deposit return schemes should be introduced as soon as possible. I also believe that it is crucially important to get them right. It is worrying that Scotland has rushed ahead with its own scheme in an area where we definitely need UK-wide compatibility.

I support Amendment 133A in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and others, that the scheme should, at a minimum, apply to PET, glass, aluminium and steel containers of volumes under 3 litres. I was a non-executive director of Lotte Chemical, at Wilton, on Teesside, for nine years, until the end of 2019, when the company was taken over by Alpek Polyester. It holds a 70% to 75% market share in the UK and Ireland as the leading supplier of polyethylene terephthalate. The plastics tax is likely to disadvantage PET producers in favour of glass and aluminium producers, with the unintended consequence that producers will switch from PET to glass and aluminium containers, which have a carbon footprint four or five times higher than PET.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, proposed exemptions from the plastics tax in her Amendment 141. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, expressed concern that the deposit return scheme might lead producers to switch from aluminium or glass to plastics. My concern is the reverse: besides the much lower carbon footprint associated with PET, does the noble Baroness really want to go back to the days when we cut our feet on discarded glass bottles on the beach?

The answer is not to penalise PET but to introduce a deposit return scheme as good as Germany’s, where 98% of PET bottles are collected for recycling. We have a long way to go. Germany is not often held up as an example of a unitary state with centralised powers, but the successful German deposit return scheme is a national scheme applied in all the Länder identically. If the United Kingdom is to prosper and global Britain is to succeed as we expect and hope, it follows that the leaders of our devolved authorities might be less impatient and more willing to work together to agree the details of one national scheme across the whole United Kingdom.

I will speak to Amendments 134A, 134B and 138A tabled in my name and the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for whose support I am most grateful. These amendments take account of the needs of small producers, including small brewers, within the proposed deposit return scheme and recognise that the proposed measures will introduce significant, disproportionate costs and regulatory burdens for small businesses. I strongly support a deposit scheme such as that proposed in the Bill in principle, because it would help to tackle our waste and littering problems, but I ask my noble friend, is he mindful of the burdens on small businesses introduced by the Bill that may make it difficult for them to compete against much larger producers?

Many small brewers have had great difficulties surviving through the pandemic. With pubs closed, the only way that they could keep their products on sale has been to sell them in bottles and cans. It is very expensive for small brewers to make the necessary changes to packaging and labelling. It is likely that the four large brewers, which hold 88% of the beer market, will absorb the cost within their profit margin, thereby driving small challengers and craft beer manufacturers out of the market. Besides this, the costs and difficulties of participation in the scheme seem disproportionate for small brewers.

The fact that Scotland is ahead of the rest of the country is another problem. Brewers sell beer through wholesalers that sell in both England and Scotland. The brewers do not know how much beer their wholesalers sell in each part of the UK, yet the Scottish Government, in the operation of their scheme, have suggested that brewers will have to provide vast swathes of information that they do not currently possess. It is important that any deposit scheme adopted is completely interoperable with the Scottish one. Can my noble friend confirm that we will have, in effect, an identical scheme operating across the whole country? Is it not a problem that the Scottish scheme does not require recyclable products to be clearly labelled as such? There may well be unintended consequences if the schemes are not completely aligned.

Can my noble friend also say whether the Government accept the need for public education about the new scheme, which will be necessary to change public behaviour towards recycling? Does he agree that there is at least a strong case for exempting small breweries producing less than 900,000 pints a year from the new requirements? Indeed, the Government’s better regulation framework states that the default position

“is to exempt small and micro-businesses from … new regulatory” requirements. While the Government have proposed in the recent consultation to allow small retailers to apply for exemptions under the deposit schemes, the same exception has not been extended to small producers.

In both the extended producer responsibility and the plastic packaging tax, the Government have included a de minimis threshold. In other areas, such as nutritional information, those with fewer than 10 full-time equivalent staff and a turnover of below £2 million are exempt. Therefore, I have tabled these amendments and ask my noble friend to consider how the Bill will support our small producers in a similar way to small retailers.

Under the proposed deposit scheme, small producers will have to redesign their labels to incorporate bar codes and logos at significant cost. They will have to pay a producer fee per container, which could cost the beer industry alone £200 million a year—the equivalent of a 6% increase in beer duty. They will have to collect and provide a great deal of additional information, which could lead to a delay of six weeks or more before they can bring new products to market and will impact innovative small brewers that produce seasonal and one-off beers.

Amendment 134A would allow the DRS to take account of the size of the producer when setting its fees and scope, allowing the Government to vary the scheme accordingly. Amendment 134B would exempt the smallest brewers, which produce less than 5,000 hectolitres a year—the equivalent of 900,000 pints, or enough beer to serve 15 community pubs. This is in line with the Government’s current small brewers relief scheme, which allows small brewers to pay a proportionate amount of duty to the Treasury. This Bill will create a scheme administrator called the deposit management organisation, which would be responsible for the operation of the DRS. Amendment 138A would provide a safeguard to hold this body to account for how it treats and takes account of small producers.

I hope that my noble friend can consider and address the issues raised in these amendments.

Photo of Lord Haskel Lord Haskel Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 2:45 pm, 5th July 2021

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Lucas, have withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

Photo of Lord Carrington Lord Carrington Crossbench

My Lords, I add my support to Amendment 134 proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. She has put the case for a variable rate dependent on container size most forcefully. There is nothing I can add without repetition, so I would like the Minister to comment on the reason given by the Minister, Rebecca Pow, in the other place. When she gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee, Rebecca Pow, who is the Minister responsible for the DRS, said that the department was inclined to introduce a variable rate of deposit.

However, Defra currently wants to leave it to the scheme administrator to make the ultimate decision. The concern is that the administrator may not assess the need for a variable deposit independently and impartially, as it will be run by the industry itself, with all its vested interest to take into account. Can the Minister assure us of the independence of the administrator and how the appointment process for the administrator will work? A variable rate should be mandated in the legislation at this stage to avoid these potential problems.

Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative

My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 133A, to which I have put my name, which was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and is also supported by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. This amendment is about what is known as an all-in deposit scheme, which means it catches as many items as possible. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, is absolutely right that our priority ought to be to reduce waste in the first place and so, if we are going to reduce waste, we need a comprehensive deposit scheme. We must stand back and look at what we are trying to do, which is to protect the environment. The bigger and wider the deposit scheme, the more chance we have of keeping the environment in the state in which we would like it to be.

However, I know this causes an awful lot of worry for those who have set up return or deposit schemes at the moment, have invested money in them and do not want to change. It is the nature of industry that there will always be vested interests, but I hope that my noble friend will stand back from them and say that this is needed in the interests of the environment.

My noble friend Lord Trenchard rightly mentioned that any scheme must be pretty much the same across the whole United Kingdom. However, I challenge him on one thing. He said that Scotland had rushed ahead; no, I think that England is the laggard. Why should Scotland have to wait until England finally gets its house in order and its act together? Scotland has once again led the way, and it is time that England got on and followed suit.

Getting a UK comprehensive plan will be very important. There was a consultation on an all-in deposit scheme in 2019, which was overwhelmingly endorsed as the right way forward. All I ask my noble friend the Minister is that, when he introduces a scheme, he keeps it as simple as possible; I ask him please to use the KISS principle with this if he is going to get us to participate in this scheme and make it work in the best way possible.

Photo of Viscount Colville of Culross Viscount Colville of Culross Crossbench

My Lords, I have put my name to Amendments 133 and 133A because the DRS is one of the most important parts of this Bill. It will have a seismic effect on consumer behaviour, improve our environment and strengthen the circular economy. I and many noble Lords have already spoken about the blight of litter. Two-thirds of roadside litter is estimated to be made up of drinks containers.

The scheme is so important that it needs to be wider in scope and swifter in implementation. The present target of late 2024 at the earliest is far too slow for such an important measure. It was first announced by Michael Gove in October 2017; the initial consultation promised implementation at the start of 2023; now we are told it will be the end of 2024 at the earliest. This chronology means that the present target for the much-anticipated DRS will mean at least six and a half years before implementation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said.

I know this scheme is complicated, but it is so important that all speed is needed to implement it. I ask the Minister to listen to the words of his colleague Michael Gove who, in praising this scheme in his 2019 speech at Kew Gardens, cautioned:

“Time is running out to make the difference we need; to repair the damage we as a species have done to the planet we have plundered.”

Does the Minister agree with the Environmental Audit Committee, which described the 2024 target as “disappointing”?

I also support Amendment 134 as the Government need to ensure that the scope of the scheme is as wide as possible, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said. They need to embrace the all-in scheme; I can see why the on-the-go 750-millilitre criterion has been posited as an option, but a recent survey of stakeholders in the beverage container sector, which includes supermarkets, manufacturers and consumers, shows 69% support all-in while a mere 15% support on-the-go. To quote Michael Gove’s Kew Gardens speech again,

“I believe an ‘all-in’ model will give consumers the greatest possible incentive to recycle.”

The UK’s recycling record has been dire in recent years. This is an opportunity for us to slack off that shocking record and lead the world in recycling.

It is not hard to understand why all-in is the preference of so many. It allies simplicity and maximum benefit for the environment, and goes to the heart of the circular economy. Studies estimate that an all-in scheme will recycle 3.2 times as many drinks containers as an on-the-go one. The Minister knows only too well the limitations of kerbside collections. Recycling centres have problems separating out the wide variety of materials, and often there are problems finding ways to use the recycled material effectively. I ask the Minister to listen to manufacturers, which say that the specially designed reverse vending machines in the scheme must be much more effective at separating different materials and consequently creating a much higher quality of material for recycling. As a result, the use of recycled material will increase. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, said, reverse vending machines are proving effective in other countries; obviously, the more types of materials and sizes of drinks containers included in the scheme, the more material will be recycled.

The extra materials covered by the amendment would allow clarity for both manufacturers and consumers and conformity with other nations in the UK. The cut-off point of 750 millilitres for drinks containers could distort the market in unthought-of ways. It could encourage consumers to buy bigger bottles of unhealthy fizzy beverages to cover the deposit’s charge, and manufacturers could invent methods to avoid the scheme. A distortion in the market leads to all kinds of unintended consequences. I will give an example from Germany: the exclusion of milk products from such a deposit scheme resulted in soft drinks companies introducing milk protein into their drinks to make sure they were excluded from the scheme. As a result, Germans who were lactose intolerant suddenly could not buy or drink soft drinks. Surely it would be better to make this deposit scheme as simple and wide-ranging as possible to avoid such a distortion.

One of the aims of the Bill is to dazzle the COP 26 with our world-leading environmental legislation. What better way to do that than by the Government putting a DRS on the face of the Bill which would be quick to take effect and wide-ranging in its impact? It would be a statement to the world that Britain intends to reduce its carbon emissions and litter problem and become a recycling superpower.

Photo of Baroness Parminter Baroness Parminter Chair, Environment and Climate Change Committee, Chair, Environment and Climate Change Committee

My Lords, we very much agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, said about the potential of this deposit return scheme to show us to be a global frontrunner as we move towards a more circular economy. We also very much support the opening amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, which highlights the laggard nature of the Government in bringing forward this DRS, with the latest consultation showing that it will not come in until the end of 2024. We absolutely agree with her that the Government ought to get on with this by next year as an initial step.

We agree with almost all noble Lords that this must be an all-in scheme. There are costs to that, which the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, highlighted; another is the cost to local councils, as with an all-in system you remove aluminium, which is one of their most valuable recycling assets. However, we very much believe that the benefits outweigh those costs. We must resist those voices saying not to go down the all-in route. The Government’s impact assessment shows that there are very strong benefits to all-in, in the amount of recycling and the impact on cutting littering. That is important, but for me the issue mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, about consistency with Scotland is the strongest case for all-in. We know where the Scots are going with their DRS; we feel very strongly that, to get the maximum benefits from DRS, there should be consistency with Scotland.

On that basis, although I listened to the very articulate arguments put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, on the case for a differential rate for sizes, I am not sure I want that put in the Bill at this stage, as there is an issue about ensuring that consistency with Scotland is uppermost in our mind. I therefore wish the Government to look at that again but do not support that going in the Bill at this stage, although I understand and accept the arguments she made. I hope the Government will look at them carefully. I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, deposit return schemes are another important reform introduced by the Bill to maximise our resource productivity. It was heartening to hear support across the House for their introduction.

This Government are determined to crack down on the waste and carelessness that destroy our natural environment. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, was right to point out in her opening speech that in our manifesto we committed to introduce a deposit return scheme this Parliament. We remain absolutely committed to delivering on that commitment. I thank her for Amendments 133 and 133A. We are currently analysing responses to our consultation from environmental NGOs, businesses and trade organisations on the deposit return scheme, which consulted on implementation timelines for 2024, the scheme design and the exact responsibilities of a deposit management organisation. This also included proposals on the size of containers and materials to be included. We will publish our response as soon as possible.

I appreciate that noble Lords are keen to see the introduction of a DRS for drinks containers introduced as soon as possible—so am I. But realistically, particularly following the impact of the pandemic, we need to make sure we balance this anticipation with the needs of businesses, which will need time to adapt their processes to a DRS. The impact assessment for this measure identified that the net costs to businesses were likely to be £266 million a year, so we need to make sure that we fully consider the time needed for them to adapt.

The recent consultation explored the implications of different timelines on businesses. Businesses have been clear that they need some time to ensure that scheme infrastructure and operational contracts are in place before a scheme can be introduced. But, again, to be clear, we remain committed to delivering a DRS in this Parliament.

In response to Amendment 133A, I am pleased to confirm to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that Schedule 8 already makes provision for any item to be specified as a deposit item for the purposes of a DRS. This includes specifying the material from which the item is made, as well as the size of that item. In response to questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and my noble friend Lord Trenchard, our recent consultation proposed that the scope of the deposit return scheme should include polyethylene terephthalate bottles, steel and aluminium cans and glass bottles. I know that the noble Baroness, and many others across this House—including the Government—want to see ambition at the heart of a future DRS. I am therefore also pleased to confirm that options for future schemes are broad and could look at a range of items such as food pouches, coffee cups and even mattresses.

Regarding Amendment 134, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, I am happy to say that Schedule 8 allows provision to be made in regulations to set either a fixed or variable deposit rate, as requested by the amendment of the noble Baroness. The case for a fixed rate is that it will help ensure simplicity and might be easier for consumers to understand. However, a variable rate deposit level could be set to reflect the size of the drinks container and might help reduce the impact on sales of containers that are part of a multipack, for example. Ultimately, in designing this part of the Bill, we wanted to allow the deposit management organisation to have the flexibility and control in setting the deposit level to whatever is most helpful for it in meeting statutory collection targets. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that this is the most pragmatic approach.

With regards to my noble friend Lord Carrington’s comments on the deposit management organisation, there has been strong support for a deposit management organisation to be an independent, not-for-profit and private organisation. This has been a model that has been successfully utilised internationally and ensures that the scheme can be managed in the most cost-effective manner. It is currently the model that we intend to use for the purpose that we have just described.

The Government fully share the concerns raised by my noble friend Lord Trenchard in his Amendments134A, 134B, and 138A. I fully agree with his points around protecting small businesses, as I am sure we all do. It has been a tough year for small businesses and breweries right across the country. We want to protect the smallest drinks producers from the cost burden associated with the introduction of a deposit return scheme. Schedule 8, therefore, allows exemptions to be made with regard to the size of supplier or producer, and to take account of the impact on small producers, including breweries, as suggested by my noble friend’s amendment. Our recent consultation proposed allowing smaller producers to pay minimal or no annual registration fees, which I hope my noble friend welcomes.

A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Caithness and, I believe, my noble friend Lord Carrington as well, made comparisons with progress that we have seen in Scotland. It is true that the Scottish Government were ahead of us in planning for the introduction of their DRS. The primary powers underpinning their legislation were enacted in 2009. It is our intention that the schemes in Scotland and England will work together to ensure a coherent approach to returning items. We will continue to work with Scotland to develop these proposals. We want to make sure that any DRS that is right for England draws on the evidence of what works elsewhere in the world and achieves our goals of reducing litter from drinks containers and improving their recycling. Ultimately, we want to have an ambitious but realistic timetable to ensure that we are implementing a DRS that will be as effective as possible. The second consultation has just closed, which includes details of the proposed timeline for introduction of a scheme.

In summary, I would like to reiterate our commitment to a deposit return scheme for drink containers as soon as possible—in a way which improves our resource efficiency, tackles litter and brings businesses with us—and to reiterate our ability to bring forward more schemes in the future as well. I hope that noble Lords are reassured. We have tried to find a sensible balance in driving ambition and pace, while recognising that businesses need a sensible lead-in time. I therefore respectfully ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Pitkeathley Baroness Pitkeathley Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:00 pm, 5th July 2021

My Lords, I have received requests to speak after the Minister, from the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Marlesford.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I am grateful to be allowed to intervene—briefly, I was withdrawn from speaking in this group—and I would like to support what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has said about the concerns of small breweries. I was to some extent heartened by the Minister’s response that there is provision for making special arrangements in the regulations, but I would just like to ask him whether he recalls, five or 10 years ago, the rather serious activities of the major brewers in kicking out and treating badly many small pub landlords, which ended up with a lot of fuss. In the end, a Pubs Code Adjudicator was appointed to try to protect the independent landlords and, to some extent, the beers that they supplied. We have to remember that the big brewers are not charities. It is really important for the growth of the industry and the variety that the new brewers provide that there is a real, solid protection for the small brewers when it comes to the deposit return schemes. I hope that the Minister can confirm that.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I remember well the scandal of five to 10 years ago. Indeed, there were a number of people in my own former constituency who were affected, and I was very much involved in the all-party group that called for the Pubs Code Adjudicator, so I very much note his comments. I hope that the noble Lord was reassured by the reassurances that I provided in relation to small businesses and our attempts to insulate them as far as possible from any avoidable cost.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister recollect that, in the state of Oregon in the United States, where the returnable container schemes were pioneered many years ago, the key to success was that when the affluent discarded them, the less affluent picked them up and returned them?

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I was not aware of the example from Oregon, but there are plenty examples from around the world of people at the very bottom of the economic ladder deriving livelihoods from being involved at one level or another in the recycling sector. That is certainly the case. I thank my noble friend for his comments.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in support of our amendments. As I said in my opening remarks, there is already considerable evidence from Europe that deposit return schemes drive up recycling levels of bottles and cans and thereby cut back on litter and landfill. That point was echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, among others. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, rightly highlighted the success of Germany and the fact that it has been organised on a unitary basis across the German state—there are lessons to be learned from that.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, latterly put the question about the affluent and the less affluent. It is true that, once you put a small value on an empty bottle, people will be less inclined casually to throw it away, and even if some individual cannot be bothered to collect the deposit, there will always be others who will pick it up for that reason. However you go about it, it will undoubtedly reduce levels of litter and drive up recycling.

I agree, of course, with the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and others that what we need is an all-in scheme for it to be really successful.

There is no reason why this scheme cannot be operational by 1 January 2023. Indeed, there could be perverse consequences if Scotland had such a scheme ahead of other nations. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, said that England has become a world leader in foot-dragging, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said that England is becoming a laggard, and I agree with both of those sentiments. I think that we all agree that a united scheme across the four nations is the way to go, but we cannot expect Scotland to hang around while we make our minds up about this, so we have to move at pace and move together.

I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, made a sensible point about deposit fees having to vary with the size of the container. I understand some of the complexities around that, but we need to make sure that we are not incentivising a switch to plastic that might otherwise occur.

The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, raised the issue of small producers and small breweries, and I agree that there need to be arrangements for start-ups and new businesses. There are, of course, many small drinks companies bringing new products on to the market—indeed, many of them are promoting healthy drinks. I am not convinced that small breweries need a special exemption, but I understand the point he makes. Of course, the scheme is not intended to place an extra burden on small businesses, and we have all said that it needs to be simple and straightforward to administer. I would have thought that all those companies—the breweries and other small producers—would welcome schemes that prevent their empty containers becoming litter or landfill just as much as anyone else. I remind noble Lords—some of us have been around for rather a long time—that we had bottle deposit schemes in the past, so in a sense this is nothing new.

I listened carefully to the Minister’s response, but nothing he said explains why we cannot have a DRS by 1 January 2023, and I disagree that he is on target to meet the Conservative manifesto commitment on this. Businesses have known that this is coming for some time; we have had time to make the transition, and there is still time within the next 18 months to complete that transition. The Minister also talked about Schedule 8, but the problem, as with all those schedules, is that it is not specific; it is just enabling. It does not guarantee anything. It just says that these things “may”—going back to our famous word—happen.

I will, therefore, reflect on the Minister’s comments, but I hope he has heard the strength of feeling around the Chamber today: people want action on this, and they want it quickly. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 133 withdrawn.

Amendments 133A to 138A not moved.

Schedule 8 agreed.

Clause 54 agreed.

Schedule 9: Charges for single use plastic items

Amendment 139 not moved.

Schedule 9 agreed.

Clause 55 agreed.

Amendments 140 to 141A not moved.

Clause 56: Separation of waste

Amendments 142 to 145 not moved.