Getting one thing right about plastics recycling

You'll have noted that around here we're pretty keen on the use of markets. That's because using markets works, it achieves the goal we've set out to gain. Thus there is a certain celebration at the manner in which the new plastics and containers recycling scheme is to be set up.

No, this is not to say that such a scheme must be set up. Only that if it is this is the correct way to do it:

A deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans will be unveiled by Michael Gove today in a major victory for the Mail’s campaign to slash plastic waste.

As well as plastic bottles, the scheme will cover aluminium cans and glass bottles, the Environment Secretary will say.

It is expected to involve putting a small charge on recyclable bottles and drinks containers. This deposit would be returned when empty bottles or cans are returned to a new network of ‘reverse vending machines’.

Place a value upon something and it will be valued within those markets. It's not that complicated an idea.

In more detail, a or the major cost in any form of recycling is the collection from individual hands those items to be recycled. A returnable deposit gives an incentive to do so and we'll see people organising themselves into making money from doing so. Again, perhaps this isn't a task which needs doing but if it does then this is the way to do it.

We can even call this pollution of the empties a market failure if we wish. Not quite true, because it's an absence of markets and their incentives. Great, so add in the incentives and let the markets do their work. Or, as we might put it, markets fail? Then use markets.