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DRS likely to be delayed until 2027

Prepare not to be surprised: the long-awaited deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers is heading for another delay.

Reports earlier this month suggested 2028 was now the date Defra had in mind for the scheme, which involves a deposit being added to drinks containers and then refunded when the packaging is returned.

Quizzed on his plans for a UK-wide DRS this week, environment secretary Steve Barclay reportedly told MPs on the Efra committee that 2027 is a “more likely” launch date than the current 2025.

“I don’t think 2025 is realistic; and certainly, I don’t think business would view it as a realistic deadline,” Barclay said, according to a report by Circular.

Barclay suggested the continued delays were due to the complexities of ensuring the DRS is interoperable between the home nations of the UK.

Scotland and Wales both had plans to launch their own schemes. Scotland’s was held up due to a combination of a backlash from businesses and a ministerial intervention in Westminster.

“These delays and dilutions lie squarely in the hands of UK government that has sadly seemed so far more intent on sabotaging this parliament than protecting our environment,” said Scotland circular economy minister Lorna Slater when she announced the scheme’s postponement (to 2025) last year.

DRS has become extremely politicised. Ministers in Scotland are clearly blaming those in the south for the problems but there has been severe lobbying from businesses too. The likes of UKHospitality have called for a joined up approach across the UK.

The opportunity to create a UK-wide scheme is potentially good news but campaigners remain deeply concerned with continuous delays for a concept that is tried and tested in dozens of other countries.

There has also been much debate over which materials to include in the scheme, too. Plastic PET bottles, aluminium and steel containers are all a given, but while Scotland and Wales are keen to include glass, England isn’t.

Some 920.2 million drinks containers were wasted across Scotland in 2019 – in other words littered in towns, cities and the countryside, lost into the marine environment, landfilled, or incinerated – according to Reloop. Of those, 437.4 million were cans, 334.9 million were PET plastic bottles, and 147.9 million were glass bottles.


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