The fight to persuade the UK government to embrace a digital deposit return scheme has taken a major twist, after two rivals in the sector announced they were joining forces.

Not-for-profit company the DDRS Alliance, whose members include Circularity Solutions, Recycl3r, ACE UK, Tetra Pak and Valpak, have formed a coalition with Polytag, the company which has been at the forefront of DRS trials with retailers including The Co-op and Ocado.

Previously the two sides have clashed over the best way for a digital DRS (DDRS) to proceed and have been involved in separate trials.

Last year, DDRS Alliance ran a 16-week trial in Brecon, Wales, the first time an entire town had trialled DDRS, with the majority of soft drinks retailers participating.

Meanwhile, Polytag ran a world-first nationwide pilot demonstrating the DDRS process alongside Ocado Retail, which in just 56 days saw over 20,000 20p rewards claimed by Ocado customers via their smartphones.

The DDRS Alliance is currently planning a major urban trial in London, which it emerged will feature, for the first time, Polytag’s tech running alongside that used in Brecon.

With The Grocer revealing that the date for a UK launch of DRS faced delays until 2028, confirmed by environment secretary Steve Barclay last week, the two organisations said they had pledged to work collaboratively and leverage their experience and expertise to demonstrate the viability and Convenience of DDRS.

Both DDRS Alliance and Polytag use GS1 Digital Link QR codes to facilitate a DDRS. GS1 forecasts brands will begin replacing traditional product barcodes with two-dimensional smart QR codes from 2027. The QR codes can be used to increase supply chain visibility, authenticate products for retailers, and extend the label for consumers with rich, dynamic content.

“Deposit return schemes have demonstrated across Europe that consumers respond to a financial incentive to return drink containers for recycling,” said Duncan Midwood, co-founder of the DDRS Alliance. “Digital DRS brings the solution to the modern day by providing consumers with a more convenient solution mirroring their lifestyles. DDRS Alliance is uniquely positioned to co-ordinate the development of DDRS, ensuring tech companies, such as Polytag, can deliver their solutions within a well-defined and standardised framework. We are excited about working more closely with Polytag and hope DRS stakeholders across the world will sign up to the Digital DRS Charter and join us.”

Alice Rackley, CEO of Polytag, said: “Countries across Europe, like Serbia and Spain, are already seeing and reaping the benefits of digitally supported recycling systems. It is high time more nations, including the UK, do the same. Our collaboration with DDRS Alliance will ensure we can strengthen our position and continue to demonstrate why a digital scheme will be better for brands, retailers, government, consumers and the environment. We will integrate our scalable, practical, and above all, ready-to-deploy solution into existing infrastructure across the UK and further afield.”