DRS proposals face criticism from green groups

The proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for England faces push back from green groups in the debate between sizes and types of containers in scope.

Under a deposit return scheme, the price of drinks in bottles or aluminium cans includes a small amount that goes towards recycling. The sum is returned to the buyer as an incentive to recycle when the empty container is returned. These schemes are common in Europe and have led to much higher rates of recycling of items such as plastic bottles.

The DRS implementation is part of a raft of measures to be introduced as part of the recourses and waste strategy to improve the UK’s collection and recycling rates. A DRS would directly be targeting single-use items and put in place to decrease littering.

The DRS in England and Wales has faced some delays, with the introduction of a DRS being announced in 2019. The second consultation for a proposed DRS ended several months ago, which confirmed the intention to delay the introduction of the system from 2023 to 2024.

One of the most hotly contested issues of the DRS proposal is the potential size and scope of containers that will be included. The options laid out in the consultation being ‘all-in’ or ‘on-the-go’. Environmental groups and politicians have called for the scheme to include drink containers over 750ml in size and include multipacks.

Research from the coalition’s resources and waste group has found scheme covering all types of containers is predicted to lead to 23.7 billion bottles and cans being recycled each year, against only 7.4 billion under the scaled-down option.

"Having large glass containers included in the DRS can drive businesses to look at moving their packaging to plastic."

Jimmy Dorrell

Jimmy Dorrell, Head of Sustainable Business at Clarity Environmental commented: “The difficulties with introducing the most effective DRS for England rests on different factors. An all-in deposit scheme is preferable to capturing as many single-use items as possible however we must ensure this does not lead to unintended consequences that we have seen through other European schemes.

“Having large glass containers included in the DRS can drive businesses to look at moving their packaging to plastic, as it becomes less burdensome for consumers to return them and smaller retailers to collect them.

“Realistically we want a DRS system that is uniform throughout the devolved nations, ensuring consumers and retailers understanding is aligned, whilst also looking at how the other elements of the resources and waste strategy will impact each other for a holistic and well thought through scheme.”

Understanding The Resources and Waste Strategy

If you currently comply with the packaging and waste regulations, manufacture or import plastic packaging or put bottles and cans onto the market the upcoming regulations will impact your business.

With costs forecast to be 10 to 13 times the current packaging regulation costs, it is essential you understand and prepare for the financial and administrative burden of Extended Producer Responsibility, Deposit Return Scheme and The Plastic Packaging Tax.

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