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Welsh Government’s glass deposit scheme will ‘wreck businesses’

27 Jul 2023 5 minute read
Bang On Brewery Beer bottles. Image via Facebook

Martin Shipton

Businesses are at risk of going under unless the Welsh Government drops glass from its deposit return scheme proposal, a brewery boss has claimed.

The government’s decision to plough ahead with its proposal to charge a deposit for single-use glass bottles has sent shock waves through the vibrant brewing and hospitality sectors in Wales.

The UK Government is introducing a deposit return scheme (DRS) for England but, following lengthy consultations, glass will not be included. However, that is not the case in Wales.

The owner of Bang On Brewery, Neil Randle, has warned that thousands of jobs are now under threat because of Labour’s plan.

He said: “Labour’s proposal is unworkable and unmanageable for small, independent businesses that produce drinks in glass bottles in Wales. Despite the brewing industry warning the Labour Welsh Government that their proposed system is a disaster waiting to happen, it is falling on deaf ears.

“We are all feeling despondent and marginalised by a leadership that doesn’t know our industry and isn’t even attempting to understand it.

“The disastrous policy means that, for us to make the same profit per bottle as we did in 2019, the retail price per bottle would need to be driven up £12.53. That just cannot happen because it’s unsustainable. I fear thousands of jobs could be lost in brewing which will then have a knock-on effect in hospitality.”

Concerned

Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, expressed similar concerns, saying: “It was a delight to meet Neil and I am very concerned by what I’ve heard. It is clear to all—apart from Labour ministers it seems—that including glass in the DRS scheme would be a colossal mistake, with thousands of jobs and businesses potentially being lost.

“We simply cannot allow the industry to be driven off a cliff. That is why I urge Labour to sit up, listen to the industry and scrap glass from its DRS scheme.”

And the Shadow Minister for Tourism and Culture, Tom Giffard MS, added: “I have been inundated from businesses which have unequivocally voiced fears with what the Labour Welsh Government is proposing.

“They are warning that thousands of jobs across Wales could be lost, if glass is not dropped from Labour’s DRS proposal. Labour needs to listen, before it’s too late.”

A Welsh Government spokesman responded: “We speak regularly with small drinks producers in Wales on how best to include them in the scheme.

“We have been consistent throughout that we would prefer a scheme with the same scope across the UK so as to maximise the environmental and economic benefits.

“The easiest way to achieve this is for UK Government to reverse its decision to diverge away from what was the shared position across the UK, by putting glass back into its scheme. This would help tackle litter, lower pollution and help deliver Net Zero.”

Transitory 

The spokesman added: “The recycling and crushing of a glass bottle, which takes a large amount of energy and carbon to create, after only one use is however a transitionary step, with recycled glass still requiring around 75% of the energy needed to produce glass from raw materials and so there is a need to move to commonly using glass bottles multiple times over.

“We have been actively engaging with industry, including the Welsh brewery sector, in order to work with them to not only make the DRS a success, but also to support them to be resilient and competitive through the transition to zero carbon.”

A Welsh Government source pointed out that the UK Government’s original DRS had included glass bottles and that Welsh Conservatives had initially supported that position.

Tory MS Janet Finch-Saunders had said: “There has been increased interest in whether glass bottles should be included in a DRS. I am pleased to agree with Polytag that glass should be part of the scheme in Wales.

“Scotland’s DRS will help tackle the plague of glass bottles littering communities because its inclusion of glass will see the recycling of an additional 53,000 tonnes of containers. It would be fantastic to see such a boost to recycling here in Wales too”

In December 2021 Ms Finch-Saunders addressed school children on the steps of the Senedd, in an event that was coordinated by Surfers Against Sewage, saying: “We know that between 77% and 83% of recent survey participants reported they would use a DRS on most occasions for the types of containers explored, including plastic bottles, glass bottles and metal cans. This is why I have been proud to recently secure commitments that such a scheme would be all-in and to consider whether lids and caps would be accepted.”

As far back as 2018, then Tory MS David Melding was calling a bottle deposit return scheme “game-changing” (not a colossal mistake) when Michael Gove announced the UK Government would introduce it.

“Mr Melding said: “We know that deposit return schemes have hugely successful return rates in countries like Norway, Finland and Australia, so it is welcome news that Conservatives in England will be leading the way to end the scourge of waste in our environment.”

And even Tory Senedd group leader Andrew RT Davies described DRS as a “fantastic idea” in principle, when he visited Bang On Brewery in November 2022.

However, a spokesman for him pointed out that in a press release issued at the time, Mr Davies said: “[It] is vital concerns are sorted out before the scheme is implemented. I will raise these with Welsh Government ministers.”


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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
8 months ago

 brewery boss” Bosses ALWAYS lie. Always.

….However, a childish part of me does want to rebel and claim that any R “I know how to Tweet” Davis likes is stupid on principle…but I have shut her up with chocolate and a promise to re-watch Across the Spiderverse.

Llyn
Llyn
8 months ago

The Conservative manifesto of 2019 promised a DRS scheme that would include glass. So the Welsh Conservative Party is now actively campaigning against it’s own manifesto promises. Another example of their complete lack of any moral proberty and honesty.

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
8 months ago
Reply to  Llyn

[‘Probity’. Just helping.]

Richard 1
Richard 1
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Davies

and “its” not “it’s”. Fowler says “It’s is not the possessive of it but a contraction of it is (where) the apostrophe is performing its normal duty of showing that a letter has been omitted”

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard 1

That reminder is very helpful. We can all stumble over such details. It’s [check!] nice to see ‘Fowler‘s modern English usage’ being referenced.

Llyn
Llyn
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Davies

Thank you

Llyn
Llyn
8 months ago
Reply to  Llyn

Also, would be interesting to know who the Bang On Brewery’s Neil Randle voted for in 2019. If he voted for the Tories he voted for this exact same idea that he is so angry about.

CapM
CapM
8 months ago

Using and recycling glass bottles is not a good way of reducing our Carbon Footprint. Using and recycling aluminium cans is significantly better as apparently is using plastic coated cardboard cartons. The Carbon footprint can be reduced by the reuse of glass bottles. Can anyone provide some info on a comparison? However even if reuse of glass bottles is the best way to reduce the carbon footprint it’s only likely to work for products that are sold in quantity and distributed nationally or concentrated locally. For example big breweries or milk rounds. As they point out that leaves typical small… Read more »

Bethan
Bethan
8 months ago
Reply to  CapM

A solution that’s staring companies in the face but they don’t want to consider is standardising jars and bottles so that they can be easily collected, sterilised and reused (similar to old milk bottles but on a larger more industrial scale). This is especially viable for glass containers as glass is inert and short of breaking its composition doesn’t degrade or become compromised with use. Unlike plastic, cardboard or even metal. I think standardising packaging would be useful in sorting and recycling all empties but for glass in particular it just makes sense. It’s too high quality a material to… Read more »

CapM
CapM
8 months ago
Reply to  Bethan

Standard designs for glass bottles would be good. Though the carbon footprint even in the medium term for reuse is higher than say aluminum cans from recycled aluminium. Cans aren’t an option for everything currently sold in glass though.

Maybe an approach where for wine, non carbonated drinks and spirits could be, buying the product in aluminium, cartons or “on draught” and decanting into a ceramic,glass or metal decanter of value.

Paddy
Paddy
8 months ago

The brewery boss is being overtly party political – complaining about “Labour” rather than “the Welsh government”.

We should take this with a pinch of salt.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy

And his assertion that a bottle of beer will need to be increased by £12.53 with an entire salt mine.

Scaremongering of the highest order.

Erisian
Erisian
8 months ago

£12.53! Sounds like an imaginatively worst case scenario scrawlled on the back of a fag packet – in crayon.

But it is not difficult to imagine what might have changed Conservative minds…
After all – damn the environment – they have a culture war to stoke.

Doctor Trousers
Doctor Trousers
8 months ago

Do you not think that good journalism would involve actually establishing what the broad consensus is across the industry, rather than just quoting the boss of one brewery? I have nothing to go on here. My gut feeling is that this guy is exaggerating and talking from a position of political bias, but that’s exactly what this kind of journalism leads to. My biases mean that I default to that assumption, but somebody with another set of biases will agree with him. It’s basically just a guy making an inflammatory statement which will get people reacting, arguing and sharing on… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
8 months ago

Simple question on any kind of material recycling – What happens to those materials now ? As far as I know most glass is reprocessed into other “second life” glass products, or into a spun material that was used extensively in car exhausts but with the surge in EV’s there will be no need, as far as I know, for recycled glass for automotive. There were hygiene concerns about reusing glass bottles due to tendency to develop small cracks or chips around the neck. I suspect the brewer is exaggerating the handling costs as this vision implies that glass has… Read more »

Geraint
Geraint
8 months ago

Flip flop Tories caught out again.

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago

Recycling schemes seem to be working well in Germany, but I can not seem to find the huge price increase that Neil Randle seems to think we will need here in Cymru, perhaps we could ask the German Gov for some tips.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&opi=89978449&url=https://www.dw.com/en/how-does-germanys-bottle-deposit-scheme-work/a-50923039&ved=2ahUKEwiE_5jk5a6AAxWaV0EAHWD-C1QQFnoECBoQAQ&usg=AOvVaw1c-DF0djBQPIaTD6XZGkPq

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
8 months ago

The ‘Powers-That-Be’ have said that recycling glass bottles, though very efficient and saving up to 95% of raw materials, is still not Green enough (apparently) so that an elaborate process of return to shops and stores via ‘reverse vending machines’ which credit refunds is now to be preferred. Presumably, these bottles will eventually break and so finally have to be disposed of, which is impossible in our general waste and will require a visit to the recycling centre; the question then is, what is the life expectancy of a busy bottle? How many times can our vessel go to the… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Philip Davies
Null
Null
8 months ago
Reply to  Philip Davies

Anything that requires “a visit to the recycling centre” and is not accepted in any pavement collection will end up being dumped in public wastebins as far as I am concerned. Only drivers are allowed to visit recycling centres. Even if someone is willing to carry their stuff in on foot, they will be denied entry for “elf and safety” reasons.

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
8 months ago

[Correction] The ‘Powers-That-Be’ have said that recycling glass bottles, though very efficient and saving up to 95% of raw materials, is still not Green enough (apparently) so that an elaborate process of return to shops and stores via ‘reverse vending machines’ which credit refunds is now to be preferred. Presumably, these bottles will eventually break and so finally have to be disposed of, which is impossible in our general waste and will require a visit to the recycling centre; the question then is, what is the life expectancy of a busy bottle? How many times can our vessel go to… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
8 months ago

Sadly in life there’s got to be the carrot. & stick methodology to encourage the public to engage like this bottle scheme offering money for returns. This is nothing new because as a child can remember collecting pop bottles then taking them to my local newsagents for money and why I’m puzzled at business hostility. Bur I find it a tad frustrating that once again we hear the wizard of whining Andrew RT Davies and his Welsh Conservatives banshees whaling like a cat on a hot tin roof seeing similar idea was proposed in their manifesto as highlighted by others.… Read more »

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
8 months ago

It remains unclear how DRS will work in practice, or how much ‘greener’ it will be than recycling alone. All relevant premises must be prepared to administer the scheme by September 2025. I can foresee it proving a logistical nightmare for businesses when one considers the quantity of household drinks-bottles presently being picked up once or twice a month by the Council wagon to go for recycling. There will be inconvenience for customers. Cost/benefit analyses will have been weighted to strongly favour notional climate benefits that are strictly imponderable, over the practical considerations immediately affecting vendors and shoppers, imho. [I… Read more »

Paul
Paul
8 months ago

In Australia we get 10cents for every glass/plastic bottle returned and aluminium cans.
why should this be an issue ?????

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul

The reality is it should not be an issue, but because the Tory’s in England have reversed this policy, Tory’s in Cymru can now use it to ” bash” our Gov with. Just anti devolution rhetoric, any policy here not following England is deemed wrong, until of course it is adopted in England, like paying for carrier bags, ban on smoking in public, second home tax..

Frank
Frank
8 months ago

Doorstep milk I believe is still delivered in a returnable glass bottle so how can the milk industry survive and a brewery couldn’t. Years ago, showing my age, pop and beer bottles, syphons and other glass products were all washed, returned and reused. It was not a problem. As children we used to collect them from relatives or from beaches and return them to the shops for pocket money. Today we have disposable bottles and tins littering our streets and parks. I think industry should be made to fo this as their contribution to the environment.

BobSnail
BobSnail
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Milk bottles are collected by the same person who delivered them full of milk. This way they have a simple and cheap route back for refilling with no sorting or special transport. the milk float goes out with full bottles and comes back with empty ones.
Beer bottles have to be sorted into which brewery they came from and transported to the appropriate one. This is more expensive.

Ap Kenneth
8 months ago

There seem to be some interesting wrinkles to this proposal while making sense for glass to be re-used and not just recycled into new glass products saving huge amounts of expensive energy. It would seem that councils will lose revenue from the sale of recyclable materials they collect but also gain in that they will be collecting less stuff and probably less will be thrown as rubbish. Reverse vending machines would seem to be something that could encourage more visits to shops. Small breweries surely could standardise the bottles they use and work together to reduce costs, if they reuse… Read more »

Dafydd
Dafydd
8 months ago

How about all the brewery’s set up a bottle re-use co-operative to clean and redistribute bottles back to themselves. Standardise the bottles to allow inter-usability by any of the companies concerned?

Rather than just stand on the side lines and squak party political motivated moanings – -note ‘Labour’ used a significant number of times in their moanings.

Absolutely insane that we should be smashing / grinding bottles when they are completely re-usable in most cases.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
8 months ago

I’m old enough to remember when virtually every bottle was subject to a deposit return scheme.

I think the gentleman who owns the brewery doth protest too much.

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