London at night

Plans for a trial in the capital in the second quarter of next year are being lined up by the DDRS Alliance

London is next up for the rollout of digital DRS technology, in what has been billed as a crucial test of its ability to work in an urban environment.

The Grocer has learnt plans for a trial in the capital in the second quarter of next year are being lined up by the DDRS Alliance, which has just completed the first whole-town trial of a digital DRS system in Brecon, Wales.

Supporters claim there is growing momentum behind the technology amid continuing concerns over the cost of rolling out a traditional DRS system across the UK, with the government having already shelved plans until October 2025 at the earliest.

Duncan Midwood, founder of Circularity Solutions, who is spearheading the project, told The Grocer the trial in Brecon, which was backed by suppliers Danone and Nestlé along with supermarkets Aldi, Co-op and Morrisons, had shown there was huge potential for a digital system to reduce the huge expenditure of reverse vending machines required for a traditional DRS system.

Last month The Grocer revealed the trial had shown the vast majority of households recycled their containers at the kerbside rather than in stores involved in the trial.

“The results from the trial are very encouraging but we have to be realistic that this was a trail in Brecon, Wales, not in the middle of an urban area,” Midwood said. “That’s why I think a trial in London is the prefect way to show if it can work in such an environment.

“We are already having conversations and we hope it will fit with the progressive environmental agendas that some of the local authorities have in the capital.”

The trial is set to run in one or more council areas, although will not cover the entire city.  

Last week the Alliance held a summit in the Brecon town to discuss the results of its trial and the potential of the technology, which attracted representatives from Defra and the Scottish and Welsh governments.

It was attended by suppliers including Nestlé and Danone as well as retailers Aldi, the Co-op and M&S .

Midwood said: “It is very encouraging to see 75 people from across these companies come out to Brecon in the middle of Storm Ciarán to discuss the potential of a digital DRS.

“I am confident that support is growing, although there are still questions remaining, not least of which is how the technology will operate in the middle of a city.”

DDRS supporters suffered a blow last week when the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) and other bodies involved in drinks can manufacturing issued a statement of opposition to its rollout.

It claimed its ambition of 100% of cans being recycled by 2030 could only be met by a return-to-retail structure involving reverse vending machines.

The statement said: “The studies and trials exploring DDRS to date have highlighted the potential theoretical benefits of such a system, but these have yet to be demonstrated not only at scale but also, more fundamentally, that the requirements placed on the packaging value chain by a DDRS are even feasible or sensible.

“They have proven simply that the public are, quite understandably, very supportive of recycling initiatives that they can participate in using an app at home.”