It was on 15 February that The Grocer exclusively revealed the UK government’s deposit return scheme (DRS) faced being delayed until 2028, three years behind what was already a long delayed rollout.

It seems to have taken almost as long for people to wake up to the idea, but finally concern is being raised about where on earth that leaves the flagship environmental policy of a government that once claimed to be the “UK’s greenest ever”.

On Friday the i online newspaper published what it claimed was an “exclusive” on the delay, and since then a raft of trade titles have also begun asking questions, whilst several environmental campaign groups have expressed their anger.

Republic of Ireland’s DRS launched

City to Sea’s policy manager Steve Hynd spoke of his “sadness and frustration” at what he described as the “sheer foolishness” of important regulation being delayed time and time again.

Whereas Greenpeace UK’s political campaigner Rudy Schulkind said the delay made a “mockery” of the government claiming to be a world leader on plastic action.

That frustration won’t be helped by the latest news that 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 700,000 transactions in February alone.

Yet here we are still waiting for a “declaration of support” from the UK and devolved governments for DRS, which within industry circles has been talked about since the autumn.

DRS delays are ‘the norm’

Sadly, the lack of immediate reaction to The Grocer’s exclusive shows the extent to which delays and pushbacks have become the accepted norm. It seems incredible to believe Scotland was months from a proposed launch of DRS before the scheme collapsed, and that the story was all over the national news only a few months ago.

Now Defra delaying DRS until nearly 2030 has become just a footnote.

The future of DRS, along with policies such as the rollout of extended producer responsibility, plans for mandatory reporting by food companies on carbon emissions and a much needed shake-up of local authority recycling, are in danger of disappearing into a black hole – from which they won’t appear until after the election, if at all.

Of course, none of this is likely to get a look in as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt puts his faith in tax cuts, in a bid to turn around his party’s desperate position in the polls.