The government has launched a second consultation on plans for a deposit return scheme, which it says won’t now be in operation until the end of 2024 “at the earliest”.

Here is how the industry and environmental campaigners reacted.


Camilla Zerr, plastics campaigner, Friends of the Earth:

“A comprehensive deposit return scheme is needed to boost recycling, cut waste and help stem the relentless flow of discarded plastic bottles that blight our environment and threaten our wildlife.

“However, some of these proposals are far too weak. We need an ‘all in’ scheme that includes bottles, cans and cartons of every size and every material.

“Ministers must stand up to industry lobbying because delaying the scheme until 2024 will create even more unnecessary waste and pollution.

“But focusing on better recycling initiatives like DRS is not enough. Ministers must do far more to reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place.

“The government must set legally binding targets to reduce the mountains of plastic waste created every year and ensure that more of our products and packaging are re-used and refilled.”

Gavin Partington, director general, BSDA:

“We have always said that the value of the deposit should be determined by the industry-led, not-for-profit scheme administrator in order to meet its targets.

“We welcome the Scottish government’s decision to appoint Circularity Scotland – of which the BSDA is a member – as a scheme administrator for its deposit return scheme. We look forward to participating in a review of timescales that will help ensure delivery of a well-designed DRS system in Scotland that works for consumers and businesses.”

James Lowman, CEO, ACS:

“The introduction of a deposit return scheme has been talked about for several years, but there remain a host of unanswered questions about how a scheme would work in practice. We are committed to making DRS work, and the government can develop the most effective scheme by following our principles on a well-designed scheme, strategically mapping return points and placing no obligations on retailers to take back containers manually. We will continue to work closely with Defra on the detail of these regulations.”

Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director, CPRE:

“This delay is so much more than kicking the can down the road – it seems that in the face of industry lobbying, ministers would prefer to stick their heads in the sand rather than tackle the problem of waste head on.

“New research shows that around eight billion drinks containers are landfilled, littered or burnt every year. Despite all this, the government looks set to delay a deposit return scheme until the end of 2024 – essentially shirking their responsibility and waiting for a new government to show any leadership on the issue. This amounts to six long years of dither and delay.” 

Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability, BRC: 

“We’re looking forward to working with the government to deliver a recycling system that is good for business and good for consumers. That means incentivising businesses to do more of the right thing, in terms of packaging materials, making it easy for consumers to recycle and having the facilities in the UK to recycle and recover more. This requires substantial changes, with more financial contribution from businesses, so we want a system that is efficient and rewards those who invest in their supply chains. We hope the government publishes its third consultation, on consistency of collection, in the coming weeks to ensure that responses to all three consultations can be taken together to form a coherent strategy for waste and resources in the future.

“The consultation acknowledges the significant cost that the new resources and waste strategy will impose on businesses – at least £2.7bn by government estimates. We are glad the government is taking this issue seriously and we hope any changes are implemented over realistic and workable timelines.

“We want a well-designed DRS scheme which complements the kerbside collections which millions of us use to recycle our bottles. We believe it is possible to significantly increase recycling alongside existing collection and deliver value for money for manufacturers and retailers. Furthermore, we need a system that provides consistency for consumers across all part of the UK.

Miles Beale, CEO, Wine and Spirit Trade Association:

“The wine and spirit industry welcomes this consultation. The WSTA is committed to helping its members do all they can to reduce waste and improve packaging recycling. Its members will play a full part in this consultation to help provide government with the best industry knowledge to make this recycling initiative both efficient and effective.

“The WSTA has consistently expressed doubts that DRS for glass is the best and most cost-effective mechanism to improve packaging recycling. We are therefore pleased to see that the UK government has been listening and may consider taking larger bottles out of scope. Including all glass in a deposit return scheme is likely to encourage the use of more polluting plastic packaging. This seems crazy when the evidence shows that, for larger glass bottles, kerbside recycling achieves a much higher collection rate. We should learn from the top recycling nations in Europe who have found more environmentally friendly and efficient ways of collecting and recycling packaging, without including glass in a DRS.

“We are pleased that the UK government recognises the complexities of introducing DRS and appreciates that changes need to be evidence-based, something that the Scottish government has now begun to recognise, prompting an inevitable – but welcome – delay to their DRS start date.”

Robbie Staniforth, head of innovation and policy, Ecosurety:

“Ecosurety welcomes the launch of these vital consultations, yet feels it is unfortunate that the consistent collection consultation which is intrinsic to the overall functioning of the packaging waste system has not been launched alongside EPR and DRS. Given the shortened consultation period, we hope there is significant overlap of the consultations and that the government’s views on consistent collections in England are made apparent soon.

“Thanks to Defra’s extensive engagement plan over the last 18 months, much of the content of these consultations is very familiar, with Ecosurety’s input on certain aspects of the EPR system’s design clearly having been taken into consideration. We look forward to exchanging views with all stakeholders over the forthcoming weeks, with a view to ensuring the new system is workable from go-live. Bearing in mind the outcomes of the EPR consultation will define the packaging waste system in place for several decades, it is essential that all sectors are well represented and they reply to the consultation directly.”

David Honcoop, managing director of Clarity Environmental:

“We are firmly behind the environmental principles of the reforms but there is understandable concern about the proposed timelines, particularly given the delays experienced since the first consultation. The failure to publish the Consistent Collection consultation alongside these documents also leaves a level of uncertainty about how the policies will connect.

“Producers are likely to see significant increases to the cost of their compliance, which look to be higher than previously forecast. We are concerned about a number of proposals that could reduce competition in the compliance and collection systems, as there is evidence that this could lead to even further increases, as has been documented in international studies.

“We want to support the UK to achieve a greener, more sustainable post-pandemic recovery, and we are seeing great progress and innovation from producers. But it is vital that businesses are supported by the right data, research and infrastructure that will ensure any decisions taken on packaging achieve the best possible outcomes for people and the planet. With the consultation asking for feedback on a phased timeline, it is important to review whether this provides adequate time for the industries concerned to do just that, whilst allowing them to grow and thrive.

“The scheme administrator now has less than 24 months to be tendered and established and there are some concerns over how this will be implemented, with enough time to adequately prepare for the sheer scale of operations.”