Glass recycling scheme will ‘harm vineyard businesses’

Saturday 2nd July 2022 4:00 pm
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AN award-winning Monmouthshire wine producer fears including glass bottles in a deposit return scheme for drinks containers will harm the Welsh vineyards sector.

The proposed scheme applies to England, Northern Ireland and Wales with the aim of increasing recycling rates and reducing litter.

But whereas England and Northern Ireland are set to exclude glass after a consultation raised various concerns, the Welsh Government intends to press ahead and include it.

Robb Merchant, who runs White Castle Vineyard near the market towns of Abergavenny and Monmouth, said he believed including glass will “likely do more harm than good”.

“Welsh vineyards will have to set up and administer a scheme requiring a deposit to be charged to our customers and then repaid on the return of bottles to the vineyards,” he said.

“This will include bottles sold at the cellar door and online. The vast majority, if not all of our customers, already have access to kerbside glass collection schemes, which allow the glass to be sorted by colour for efficient recycling.

“To encourage customers to make a trip back to the point of sale, or even to return empty bottles by courier, would be costly, administratively burdensome, and environmentally damaging.”

In response to a public consultation on the scope of a deposit return scheme and wider issues around recycling, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said various concerns had been raised over the collection of glass and how it would potentially increase handling and operation costs.

Glass will now not form part of the planned schemes in England and Northern Ireland. However, the Welsh Government is taking a different approach and believes the scheme in Wales needs to cover “as wide a range of material types as possible” – including glass – to ensure “clear messaging to consumers, tackle littering and drive recycling rates even higher”.

Scotland’s own deposit return scheme is also due to feature glass.

Mr Merchant expressed disappointment that not all nations of the UK will share the same rules, saying it would only add to the “complexity and difficulty” for both consumers and vineyards.

“Welsh vineyards are typically very small businesses, usually using only family labour, and do not have the time, money, or resources to operate this scheme,” he said.

“They have been greatly impacted by Covid and lockdown measures, often not qualifying for the help which has been available, and are just beginning to recover. This is not the time when they should be having costly new burdens placed upon them.

“I would urge Welsh Government to reconsider this matter and to exclude glass from the scheme. We applaud the aim of reducing the environmental impact of packaging and applying the polluter pays principle, but we believe that including glass in the deposit return scheme will likely do more harm than good to the environment, and damage to the Welsh vineyards sector.”

On a visit to White Castle Vineyard, Monmouth MP David Davies described the proposed system as “disproportionately unfair”.

“You cannot seriously expect people to buy bottles of wine and then either return the empty bottle or pay a tax, which they won’t have to pay if they buy from a vineyard in England,” he said.

“We should be supporting the Welsh wine industry wherever we can, not put extra barriers in their way.

“If the purpose of this scheme is to recycle more glass, then why is it only being targeted at suppliers who produce drinks and not applied to food manufacturers such as chutney for example?”

“It is disproportionately unfair and I hope ministers in Cardiff Bay will reconsider the impact of including glass in the scheme.”

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