Tesco Ireland DRS

Source: Tesco Ireland

Tesco Ireland’s DRS machines rolled out 1 February this year

The launch of a deposit return scheme across the UK will not now go ahead until at least 2028, a whopping three years behind the current, already delayed, schedule, The Grocer can reveal.

It is understood the UK and devolved governments are due to issue a declaration of support for the scheme by the end of this month.

However, documents prepared for Defra as part of negotiations with the industry have concluded that the earliest “go live” date for DRS would be in the second quarter of 2028.

They conclude it would take up to two years alone to set up a scheme administrator, or DMO, to run the system. This would involve setting up an organisation from scratch to negotiate contracts and oversee the rollout of a network of DRS infrastructure across the UK. Scottish administrator CSL collapsed aftter its failed launch last year.

It would take a smilar period of time to introduce the system of handling fees and the other myriad financial agreements needed to work the system, ministers were told.

“It definitely won’t happen before 2028,” a leading industry source told The Grocer. “2027 is the optimistic view but I think that is highly unlikely.”

The government has also been told that the amount of infrastucture needed to set up the required network of reverse vending machines and other resources will pile pressure on the capacity of providers and the drinks industry. Thousands of return points would need to be delivered at the same time across the UK.

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Last month, supermarket leaders called for DRS to be delayed by Defra as part of a new “sensible timeframe” for environmental reforms.

A source told The Grocer talks between the UK’s governments had focused on trying to make DRS as “interoperable” as possible in a bid to reduce costs.

But despite the Republic of Ireland’s DRS scheme, which launched at the start of this month, readiness has slipped far behind the October 2025 official date last set by Defra.

That was described as a “non -starter” last year by industry sources. And despite a series of talks since then, including major concessions made on the scheme design, predictions are now for even longer delays.

In another major development, it is understood that the Scottish government has indicated that it would be prepared to accept glass being excluded from the DRS rollout. The shelved scheme north of the border previously included the material, despite a major row with the industry and the UK government.

Westminster has argued the inclusion of glass would prevent a consistent UK-wide approach.

However, it is understood that the Welsh government intends to stick with glass, with a source saying its ministers had an “over my dead body” attitude towards removing it from the scheme.

Scotland’s plans to launch the UK’s first DRS were delayed in April to match the rest of the UK’s plans, after industry leaders told Scottish ministers it would be disastrous to push ahead amid opposition from Westminster.

Supermarket bosses claimed DRS would cost at least £1.8bn a year to run, which they say would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

“We have been engaging closely with producers, retailers, and wholesalers on the introduction of DRS. During these discussions a number of alternative proposals have been set out by industry,” said a Defra spokesman.

“These claims reflect individual industry proposals. They do not represent government policy.”