Speaking after Questions to the Welsh Government Environment Minister Hanna Bleddyn, Mike Hedges AM said…. ‘When I was a child everyone took pop bottles back to the shop because of the 5p or later 10p return on the bottle – the bottle had value – as I said in my question, people feel plastic bottles have no value so therefore they are more likely to throw them away. It is time to bring back the deposit on a bottle so there is an extra incentive to encourage reuse of the bottle – it worked in the past and I sure it will be a success again’

Mike Hedges AM – Since devolution, there has been an increase in our municipal recycling rate from 5 per cent to 64 per cent, which is phenomenal. It’s driven by policy, but can I say, it’s driven more by landfill tax, so it has put pressure on local authorities to ensure that they do recycle?349

Recycling is, of course, only one of the three Rs to reduce waste into landfill. The others are ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’ and I believe the other two are more important. Which is environmentally the better: use one plastic bottle 10 times or recycle 10 plastic bottles? The latter improves recycling rates. I would suggest that the former was environmentally much better, and I think that is an important point.350

Those who create their own compost do not count against recycling, although, obviously, they’re recycling and they’re cutting down on the amount of energy used to move things to be recycled. I speak as someone who is very much in favour of not just a deposit-return scheme, but one where you actually reuse the bottles afterwards. Those of us from the Corona pop age group will be well aware of taking a bottle back and getting 5p or 10p—it worked. I think it is important that—. Plastic, too often, has no value, and that’s why people are quite happy to throw it away. You wander around football grounds and other parks and you’ll see plastic bottles being thrown because they’re of no value. I think that we need a deposit-return scheme.351

I also think that we ought to bring in some form of tax to level the playing field between glass and plastic. When I went to buy a bottle of vinegar a few weeks ago and it came in a plastic bottle, I was somewhere between amazed and surprised. The question is: should we be measuring recycling, or should we be measuring residual waste for incineration and landfill? Isn’t that a better indication of how well we’re doing? And would the Minister agree that that would be a better measure of environmental success, because otherwise we’re penalising the reusers and we’re penalising the reducers?352

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Hanna Blethyn AM – I thank Mike Hedges for his contribution and the insight into different vinegar bottles in the local supermarket. You raise a very important point with that anecdote as well, and the importance of the three Rs in the waste hierarchy. Recycling is at one end, and we’ve got reduce and reuse before that, which is why the emphasis on a circular economy is so important, and the number of reuse organisations that we’re supporting is expanding across Wales. You referred back to the days of Corona pop. I think I’m just about old enough to remember it, although I don’t think it’s the right public health message when I said I was allowed to keep the change to buy a 10p pick-and-mix bag in the shop. But you said about the DRS and the opportunities, potentially, there to incentivise people to collect bottles, or that you hear tales from elsewhere in Europe where they have got DRS, where enterprising young people, particularly after large major events, go and collect the bottles and then return them to wherever the product return facility is, and get the tokens or the receipts back for it. So, the Member raises very important and valid contributions, which I’m sure will be considered.