glass bottles

Retailers and drinks suppliers are threatening to slash the number of products they supply to Wales if the country goes ahead with plans to include glass in its deposit return scheme.

Senior industry figures told The Grocer they believed there was a “genuine threat” many suppliers would radically reduce their ranges in Welsh stores, whilst some retailers may even decide it is not worth selling drinks altogether.

Last week the UK government announced it planned to launch an “interoperable” deposit return scheme across the UK in October 2027, but admitted it faced a battle to try to persuade the Welsh government to drop its plans for glass.

Wales has said it believed it could press ahead with a scheme including glass without applying for an exemption under internal market powers, which saw Westminster torpedo last year’s planned launch for an all-inclusive system in Scotland.

Sources said it left ministers trying to come up with a ‘plan B’ to convince or block the Welsh move – otherwise the launch could turn to chaos.

“Although the launch has been delayed until 2027, the clock is already ticking on this and there is massive concern that the Welsh government are insisting on glass,” said one drinks industry source.

“It’s hard to see why they are so insistent on glass, considering there is already a 92% return rate at kerbside in Wales. But I have spoken to several senior figures at drinks companies who are serious about stopping selling to the country if it does go ahead. They may not withdraw altogether but I think there is a very good chance they would slash the ranges because of the extra costs and complexity this would create.”

Sources also warned the Welsh situation would make Defra’s job of appointing a scheme administrator even more difficult, with retailer sources having told The Grocer they believed the 2027 date was already “an optimistic view”.

The UK government has said it will take legal action to block Wales including glass in its DRS scheme, after ministers finally confirmed today plans for the UK-wide rollout were being delayed.

Huw Irranca-Davies, Welsh cabinet secretary for climate change and rural affairs, said the industry needed to begin preparations for a scheme including glass “at pace”.

But Miles Beale, CEO of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), said: “The Welsh government has chosen to go against the rest of the UK and include glass in their DRS scheme, despite universal opposition from industry experts.

“If DRS including glass goes ahead in Wales, at odds with the rest of the UK, some businesses are discussing whether it will be financially viable to sell some products in Wales.

“There is a very real threat that Welsh consumers will see price rises and products disappearing from the shop shelves.”