DRS deposit return scheme

More than a quarter of Brits have no idea what a deposit return scheme is, according to new research.

A poll of 2,000 adults, commissioned by GS1 UK, found households were already struggling to understand existing recycling schemes. The body warned that any future scheme must avoid being unnecessarily complicated if it is to succeed.

The poll found more than a third (34%) of people were confused by existing recycling whilst 45% thought simplicity would be the most important aspect if the recycling system were to be redesigned.

It comes after recent figures from Defra showed the amount of household waste recycled in England fell by 1.5% in 2020 to 44%, 6% below the EU minimum target of 50%.

All four UK nations have announced they will introduce DRS by 2025 in a bid to drive up recycling rates, with the Scottish scheme set to launch next year.

But the study found that only 42% had heard of them and understood how they worked, while a quarter (26%) had no idea what they were at all.

When how a potential scheme could work was explained, 60% of consumers surveyed said being able to reclaim a deposit would make them more likely to buy products included in the schemes, and 57% said they would do a lot more recycling if it meant they wouldn’t be left out of pocket.

“The introduction of deposit return schemes will fundamentally change the way we recycle for the better,” said GS1 UK CEO Anne Godfrey.

“It will, however, add costs and complexity not just for consumers, but industry, waste collectors and local authorities.

“A successful scheme relies on consumer participation. Our data demonstrates that simplicity is key and therefore needs to be at the heart of any successful scheme.”

The UK government is yet to publish its response to a consultation on the plan for England, amid increasing fears of a chaotic approach by the different UK nations.

Godfrey added: “We have a limited window of opportunity to help the industry solve this conundrum. In the meantime, much more needs to be done to inform consumers and change their behaviour. Only through this level of focus and collaboration will any scheme stand a chance of being successful.”

BRC policy advisor Nadiya Catel-Arutyunova said: “A successful scheme needs to be simple and straightforward for shoppers if we are to change recycling behaviours. It also needs informed consumers, which is why we back calls for greater awareness raising from UK governments and deposit management organisations, to ensure customers know exactly how to return their containers and redeem their deposits.”