Foodservice Footprint drs2 The Friday Digest: Doubts over DRS after reports of more delays  Foodservice News and Information  news-story-top news-email-top

The Friday Digest: Doubts over DRS after reports of more delays 

“Yet another Budget that largely ignores the dangers of climate breakdown, and yet another missed opportunity to properly invest in building a strong, clean and prosperous future.” Friends of the Earth head of policy Mike Childs pretty much wraps up our Spring Budget coverage with that line. It really was slim pickings for those with an interest in environment or food policy, with the chancellor putting short-term political advantage over pretty much everything else.

But we can still report on other policies and politics.

A fortnight ago at the Packaging Innovations show in Birmingham, Defra head of operations Caroline Wynn-Davies said: “You may have seen that in other European countries [there are deposit return schemes] and we are rolling that out here.” But not for a while yet, it seems. Reports this week claim that England’s DRS could be delayed until  2028

At its heart DRS is simple: in Scotland, for example, the plan was for a 20p deposit to be added to drinks containers made from PET plastic, glass, aluminium or steel, which would then refunded when the packaging is returned. Producers of packaging pay a small fee and retailers receive one. Schemes in various guises are run in over 40 countries worldwide – and yet we seem to be in the process of cocking the whole thing up. Again. And again.

The latest story of DRS dithering, broken by the ‘i’ newspaper, involves disagreements between the devolved governments. Scotland and Wales both want to crack on with their own schemes but Westminster is apparently crushing any such ambitions (thanks to the Internal Market Act). Scotland’s scheme was pulled at the eleventh hour

Ministers have “halted” work on the project, which had been delayed until October 2025, industry sources told i. Another three-year delay is apparently now on the cards. The issues are reportedly mainly due to the inclusion, or not, of glass within the scheme. The hospitality sector hasn’t really been comfortable with the whole thing from the get-go. This has become a highly politicised policy that could have already been enhancing the UK’s stumbling recycling rates (Ireland’s scheme, as detailed in one of other stories this week, has just boasted that 2 million containers have been returned in the first month of its operation).

“If these rumours of further delay to the scheme are true, they make a mockery of the [UK] government’s claim to be a world leader on plastic action,” said Greenpeace UK’s Rudy Schulkind. “Yet another delay sends precisely the opposite signal to what is needed from the UK at a point in the negotiations [for a global treaty on plastics] where high ambition and leadership by example is critical.” 

These are not the only environmental tensions across UK borders this week either. Ministers in Westminster have been accused of “trying to blunt the teeth” of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) by appointing a Conservative loyalist to the role of chairman (Lord Deben stepped down in July 2023). The Guardian reports concerns over the lack of diversity on the shortlist. The current committee has one woman and no minority ethnic members. Sir Ian Cheshire, the former chair of Barclays Bank, is thought to be the government’s favoured candidate. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have refused to approve any of the six on the shortlist.

Wales has of course been in the news following farmer protests at the Senedd. Thousands gathered to voice their concerns over the direction of agricultural policy as a consultation on the country’s sustainable farming scheme came to a close this week. You may have seen a ‘20%’ figure thrown about, as the amount of land the Welsh government would like to see taken out of production for tree-planting (10%) and habitat creation (10%). That’s not quite the case, though, as this useful fact-checker from Ends Report details. Livestock could for example still graze the 10% of land to be managed for habitat (albeit with an amended grazing regime). 

Such nuance has unfortunately been lost in the wave of farmer protests that have swept across Europe and the UK. The Westminster government still insists all is well with its new ‘better’ approach to farm regulations following Brexit. “In England, we are stepping away from the bureaucratic and dysfunctional common agricultural policy,” said junior minister (Wales office) Fay Jones during a farming debate in the House of Commons this week. “Instead, our new system focuses on long-term food security by supporting and investing in the essential foundations, from healthy soils to clean water.” The grass is always greener …

Our other stories this week include details of the first month of Ireland’s DRS and how Yum! Brands is proving the exception to the rule when it comes to climate transition plans. There is also good news for local, independent coffee shops.