DRS deposit return scheme

Supporters of a digital deposit return scheme (DDRS) claim they are determined to “take advantage” of the UK’s DRS system being delayed until 2028, so the QR code technology can be included in Westminster’s plans.

The move comes as the DDRS Alliance, which includes Circularity Solutions, Recycl3r, Tetra Pak and Valpak, announced they had formed a company to establish a blueprint for a digital system across the UK and wider afield.

The Grocer revealed last month that the DRS rollout, which had been set for the end of 2025, is to face a three-year delay, following talks between Defra and retailers and drinks companies about the investment in infrastructure needed, including the network of in-store reverse vending machines, as well as the challenges of forming an industry administrator.

The DDRS Alliance said the delays had opened a “window of opportunity” for ministers to include digital, with a system predominantly using smartphone technology and QR codes and kerbside bins, providing either a standalone alternative or working in tandem.

Last year the Alliance, with backing from the Welsh government and Wrap, ran the biggest trial to date of a digital system with thousands of households taking part in a trial in Brecon.

Alliance director Duncan Midwood said: “The DDRS Alliance is determined to take advantage of the delays to ensure digital is part of a UK DRS. We want to include all those aspiring to see digital DRS implemented.”

The Grocer also revealed last month that the Welsh government was determined to include glass in its DRS rollout, despite the Scottish government having indicated that it was prepared to remove glass in a bid to get a UK-wide DRS off the ground.

Supporters of DDRS claim it would make it easier to include glass because the vast majority of returns would be at home, not in stores.

The Brecon trial included glass and cartons, though not alcoholic drinks containers.

Delays to the UK DRS come as it emerged the Republic of Ireland’s DRS scheme, which launched on 1 February, has already seen the return of more than two million drinks containers, with over 7000,000 transactions in February alone.

However, the scheme excluded glass and supermarket giant Tesco told The Grocer before the launch that if glass had been included the scheme would not have been financially viable.

Alice Rackley, CEO of digital DRS pioneer Polytag, which is currently not part of the DDRS consortium, agreed that the delay to the DRS rollout was another opportunity to show that DDRS worked.

But she added: “I would argue that “there is no need to be a delay when the technology is ready now.”