I suspect the answer to the above philosophical dilemma depends on your outlook on life. When applied to the recent developments on Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) or Schemes within the UK, your answer might be more down to your geography or your current position in the UK resource management economy.
It seems we have finally pushed through the glass ceiling; the genie is truly out of the bottle and we’re through the looking glass – or any other lame simile you care to mention! But where does this leave us on our collective journey towards circularity and sustainability. Pretty hacked off in most circumstances. Those in favour of ‘all in’ solutions feel that the playing field is no longer level whilst those grappling with the complexity and cost of introducing such a system might be quietly sighing with relief. For certain the planet/environment/society is likely to be the ultimate loser as we prevaricate and procrastinate our way towards 2025. And considering that the now likely start date for any U.K. DRS is beyond the next national elections – all bets are off.
It’s pretty clear that policy and politics can be unhappy bedfellows, but honestly can it be that difficult to reach decisions and move into implementation. There are clearly more pressing issues at stake that Government and the intellectual leadership of this country could apply themselves to right now. If Dame Ellen MacArthur was brave and foresighted enough to see the circular future we all need to strive towards in 2013. Why is it that ten years later, we’re still struggling with these first baby steps on the supposedly simple outer rings of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation ‘butterfly diagram’.
Aluminium drinks cans have a firm position within a DRS. Our recycling performance is very creditable and our material permanent, meaning that it can be recycled again and again. But permanence arises due to stewardship, by which I mean that those who own the material have the responsibility to ensure it is returned to the same use again. So whilst we already have drinks can recycling rates above 80%, the closed loop nature of a DRS should help consumers get us closer to that 100% circularity.
So whilst 2025 seems a long way off, let’s use the time wisely by which I mean, not unravelling previous progress or backtracking on previous agreements. Rather, let’s look forward, focus on also implementing other parts of the policy landscape like Consistency of collections and Extended Producer Responsibility, so that by 2025 we’re able to smoothly implement DRS alongside other improved policies and that for Novelis, aluminium either in beverage cans or integral to other packaging formats is fully recovered and our full circularity ambitions realised.
Only then, would I be able look back with any clear conscience and not think that the events of 2023 have been anything other than a failure of political leadership at its most basic level.