drs deposit return scheme plastic bottle

Soft drinks bosses have written to the government urging it to pass the legislation for a deposit return scheme before the general election, or risk the UK becoming the “dirty man of Europe”.

In a rare show of unity, leading industry bodies joined forces with environmental campaign groups to urge ministers to make good on their promise to bring in a DRS system to tackle the scandal of plastic littering the UK’s countryside and beaches.

The move comes after The Grocer revealed last month that the rollout of DRS faced being put back until at least 2028, due to the time needed to install the infrastructure in supermarkets and smaller stores, and the challenges involved in forming a scheme administrator.

However, even that would be optimistic, claim sources, unless ministers end the state of paralysis which is enveloping the scheme.

A letter to Defra ministers signed by Coca-Cola, the BSDA and the Natural Source Water Association, along with other leading environmental bodies, calls on the government to “seize the opportunity” by laying legislation to underpin DRS in the spring.

“We urge the government to deliver its 2019 manifesto pledge ahead of the next general election,” it adds.

“Considering drinks containers make up 75% of litter and are found on 93% of UK beaches, it is essential this packaging is prevented from littering our streets, polluting our waterways and, ultimately, our precious oceans.

“From day one, communities and individuals will see dramatic improvements in their local environmental quality and experience the economic and health benefits improved pride of place can bring.

“Recent data from Latvia found its DRS reduced littered plastic bottles in coastal areas by 61%, just two years after the scheme was implemented.”

This week it also emerged more than six million drinks containers had been collected across the Republic of Ireland since its scheme launched on 1 February.

“As governments across the globe plan and deliver deposit schemes, the UK must not fall behind,” says the letter.

Other countries have shown that DRS works,” said one leading industry source. “There is a real risk that if the UK government fails to deliver, the UK becomes the dirty man of Europe.”

Greenpeace, which this week launched its annual Big Plastic Count to assess the extent of plastic pollution in the UK, told The Grocer the news that the scheme was being delayed until 2028 had “made a mockery” of the UK’s claim to be leading the war on plastic.

Greenpeace UK political campaigner Rudy Schulkind said: “The UK is supposed to be taking a high-ambition role in negotiating a global treaty to address the plastics crisis and radically reduce plastic production at source.

“Instead we are failing to introduce the kind of simple, popular system that our European neighbours have been running for years.”