Government Response summary: DRS

This month, Defra announced that a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers will begin in England, Northern Ireland and Wales in October 2025, with a collection target of in-scope materials at 90% by year 3 of the scheme’s operation. By the time the English, Welsh and Northern Irish schemes are fully operational, Scotland will have had a DRS in operation for more than two years.

Deposit Return Schemes are popular policy tools used in many countries to increase the recycling of single use drinks containers, improve the quality of recycling and reduce litter.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles, steel and aluminium cans will be in scope for the DRS for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Glass will only be included in the Welsh and Scottish DRS system.

In 2021 when DRS was still in the consulting phase for the 3 nations, 60% of respondents supported a 20p deposit however, the exact fee is yet to be decided by the deposit management organisation (DMO), who will be announced next year.

DRS in England, Northern Ireland and Wales had the initial introduction deadline of 2023 however, following global events and a period of turbulence in government the consultation response outlined a new timeline for DRS with a deadline for implementation of October 2025.

Key decisions from the response:


Extended Producer Responsibility and DRS


Next steps


Defra will look to engage with the industry to set up the DMO(s) and begin the application process, they will also begin drafting the necessary statutory instruments to seek mandate for the legislation. Additional work will be done to ensure alignment with the Scottish DRS.

The response touched on the possibility of a digital DRS however, Defra acknowledged that this technology is still in its early stages and not yet ready to be rolled out.

"Despite the two-year delay, it is positive to see Defra taking a thorough approach in their design of the policy and allowing ample time for businesses to prepare for this major reform."

Martin Trigg-Knight, Director of Compliance Services, Clarity Environmental commented:

“Clarity welcomes the additional information around the DRS(s) and how it will affect the wider market. The government response largely echoes their pragmatic approach to the implementation of other policies that will work in tandem with DRS, such as Extended Producer Responsibility.

Despite the two-year delay, it is positive to see Defra taking a thorough approach in their design of the policy and allowing ample time for businesses to prepare for this major reform.”

Questions about compliance?

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