SOMERSET’S waste authority has warned it could lose “hundreds of thousands of pounds” if a deposit return scheme is introduced.

The government will shortly launch a public consultation on introducing such a scheme to reduce the amount of plastic bottles and other such waste being incinerated, put in landfill or ending up in the oceans.

The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) has warned that such a scheme could lead to reduced income, due to less material being collected at the kerbside.

Any scheme or similar changes are not expected to be introduced until 2023 at the earliest, pending the outcome of the formal consultation.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the Somerset Waste Board in Taunton on Friday morning (February 15).

A deposit return scheme works by charging a small additional amount for a bottled or canned drink, with the extra amount being returned to the customer if they bring the container back for recycling.

Julie Searle, the SWP’s development and monitoring officer, said in her written report that implementing such a scheme could have a negative impact on the partnership’s financial position.

She said in her written report: “A deposit return scheme on drinks containers is likely to increase national capture rates of drinks containers and reduce littering.

“But this could have a negative financial impact on the SWAP because aluminium is one of the more valuable kerbside materials, so removal of aluminium beverage cans would remove a significant amount of value from the recyclate.

“Plastic bottles are a high-quality material, and removal of some of these through such a scheme would leave a larger proportion of low-quality, lower value pots, tubs and trays in the recycling stream.

“As yet we are unclear about which materials are included, so we will look for further detail when the consultation is launched.”

The SWP is in the process of procuring a new contractor for its Recycle More initiative, which would see a wider variety of materials collected at the kerbside.

Under this new contract, income from the sale of recycled materials would be shared between the contractor and the SWP.

SWP managing director Mickey Green said a deposit return scheme would reduce litter, but could “impact on the quality and quantity of recycling” being collected.

He elaborated: “If people are paying their 10p or 20p deposit, they will want that 10p or 20p back, so they will return the item through a deposit return scheme.

“This takes out a lot of material we currently generate our income from. We could lose hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“We should stress that nothing will be put in place until at least 2023.”

Mr Green clarified his comments after the meeting, stating that things were still very uncertain.

He said: “The SWP could potentially lose hundreds of thousands of pounds unless national government covers this new burden. However, this is uncertain until we see the detail in the consultation.

“Overall we strongly welcome the government’s resources and waste strategy, in particular its focus on the ‘producer pays’ principle and its recognition of the importance of a quality recycling system like we have in Somerset.”

Councillor Nigel Woollcombe-Adams questioned whether the proposed scheme – and the government’s wider waste strategy – would be commercially workable.

He said: “You can tell this has been designed by a civil servant rather than a businessman because of how it operates.”

Councillor Derek Yeomans, who chairs the waste board, responded that urgent action was needed to reduce waste in rural areas.

He said: “You go down the Cartgate road in Yeovil and all you see are bottles in the verges.”

A SWP spokesperson said: “In its research, the partnership has seen a wide range of figures and scenarios.

“Like everyone else dealing with waste, we are awaiting the details expected in the government’s forthcoming national consultation, from the types of materials to the levels of deposit.

“But we do expect a negative financial impact on us because of the quality and quantity of recyclable materials we already collect.”

The consultation by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is expected to be launched in late-February.