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The trial will monitor how the town of Welshpool, Powys responds to a 10p reward for recycling drinks containers, claimed through an app

TescoMorrisons and Aldi are among retailers backing the biggest trial to date of a digital deposit return system, described as a “whole different ball game” to anything that has gone before.

The three-month trial will start in Welshpool, Powys, in September and will monitor how the town of nearly 3,000 households responds to a 10p reward for recycling drinks containers, claimed through a mobile phone app.

The trial will cover almost 800 SKUs at all food and drink retailers in the town, including all soft drinks, water and ambient products, although excluding alcohol and multipacks.

It will also be the first trial of digital DRS to include glass and cartons.

The move comes with the UK government expected to release more details on its plans for DRS in the next few days, including what role digital could play.

“This is by far and away the biggest trial of DDRS to date,” said Duncan Midwood, CEO of Circularity Solutions, who is spearheading the trial for the DDRS Alliance. “The previous biggest had around 4,500 returns, with this one we are anticipating around 200,000. We have the involvement of all the retailers, from Tesco down to the local kebab shops who sell a few cans per week and with the likes of Coca-Cola supporting us, so we believe this could be a landmark moment in proving the potential of a digital system.”

The trial will see staff from the Alliance, as well as Tesco shop floor staff, use individually labelled stickers on drinks containers, which in the future Midwood said would carry individual labels printed during production.

The trial will see consumers able to scan products before they are recycled in kerbside home collections, but will also feature some on-the-go collection points and an automated return point in Tesco. Convenience stores in the scheme will also accept manually returned containers in scope.

Although in the trial consumers won’t have to pay a deposit for the products, unlike when a real DRS system comes into force, Midwood said he hoped it would provide the most accurate evidence to date of how a digital system could help slash the predicted £1bn cost of installing reverse vending machines across stores in England and Wales.

“There will be a need for some automated return points in stores but we believe the volumes stores will have to deal with, and the cost of the capital needed, will go down massively if a digital solution can be shown to work at scale.”

Data from the trial will be assessed by Valpak, with the results due at the beginning of next year.