Shops must not pay for recycling scheme, ACS warns

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has told the government that a potential recycling scheme must not leave local shops “out of pocket”.

The lobbying group said a deposit return scheme (DRS), where the customer earns back a small deposit by recycling drinks containers with a retailer, must be “cost neutral” for store owners.

It proposed a “fair” handling fee to make sure local shops are compensated for DRS expenses, such as installing reverse vending machines to recycle materials.

These machines are priced between £7000 and £30,000, which some fear would wipe out store investment if owners were left to bear the costs themselves.

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The ACS also had “significant reservations” about glass being included in the scheme, which it claimed was dangerous for shop staff to move by hand and required expensive equipment.

Last month, the environmental audit committee recommended that the scheme include glass collection, as long as it could be “compacted” rather than “crushed”.

The pressure group also argued for shops with limited sale or storage space to be exempt from the DRS.

According to an ACS survey, this could include up to 71 per cent of convenience stores.

Rather than forcing all retailers to recycle drinks containers, the government could “strategically map” return points instead.

“We support the introduction of DRS in 2024 […] but the inclusion of glass remains especially problematic,” ACS chief executive James Lowman said.

“A well-designed scheme would not include glass, and would be built on the foundation of a network of reverse vending machines that minimise the impact on local shops.

“For a scheme to be sustainable and supported by retailers, the handling fee must be fair and tailored to the size and operational requirements of the store, resulting in the scheme being cost neutral for retailers that take part.”

The news comes after the ACS pledged to support the government’s crime and environmental reforms after the Queen’s Speech last month.

It said the Environment Bill, which committed the government to a DRS, was one of its “top priorities for the new parliament”.

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