Charity shops and Deposit Return Schemes

The relevant authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently considering introducing a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). Similar schemes already operate in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Germany. A deposit return scheme sees consumers pay an up-front deposit when they buy a drink, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, which is redeemed on return of the empty drink container.

Promoting re-use and recycling is at the heart of what our sector does, and it is therefore likely that many of our members may wish to take part in a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in the future and gain some benefits from this.

We have therefore taken part in the government’s consultation on this matter. Our submission highlighted how charity shops are institutions fully integrated into their local communities. Around 70 per cent of charity shop managers are from the local area in which the charity shop is located and with 40 per cent having lived there for more than 20 years.

As such, they would in many ways be the perfect location for reverse vending machines (RVMs) which take in the old plastic and present the cash back to the person depositing. Charity shops with an RVM installed would also benefit from increased footfall and the opportunity to further promote their green credentials amongst the public.

However, we believe that to be successful a new DRS must be simple and consistent. We also emphasised that when the UK government introduced small charges for single use plastic carrier bags it also introduced the principle that money raised should not go to the state, or to increase corporate profits, but should support charitable causes.

The same principles should live on in the DRS as there is a possibility that charities could actually end up out of pocket if they give up valuable shop floor space for recycling machines. We recommended that for any RVMs on charity property, the government should mandate that there is a clear option to donate the returned cash straight to the charity.

You can read this submission, and all of our consultation responses dating back to 2016 on the dedicated page on our members website.

Matt Kelcher
Head of Public Affairs and Research
Charity Retail Association