plastic water bottles

Michael Gove has set up a working group to explore how a DRS system could work

MPs have accused the government of kicking plans for a deposit return scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles into the long grass.

Ministers this week responded to calls in the Environment Audit Committee’s (EAC) report Plastic Bottles: Turning Back the Plastic Tide, which had called for a mandatory DRS system to be brought into the UK as part of the solution to plastics pollution.

The Whitehall response said it would need to consider how DRS would fit in alongside the government’s wider plans for a war on plastic, including a call for evidence on the potential for a tax on single-use plastic products.

It warned that otherwise suppliers or consumers could end up being hit by two different sets of additional costs.

Environment secretary Michael Gove has set up a working group, including representatives from the food and drink industry, to explore how a DRS system could work.

Such a system has been backed by some leading retailers, including the Co-op and Iceland, while Tesco has been involved in setting up a pilot system with its suppliers to see how such a system could work.

Other industry groups and retailers have warned the system will impose huge extra costs as well as hit consumers in the pocket, with Asda earlier this month warning that DRS was not the solution to tackling plastic waste.

The government response said: “We will need to consider how a Deposit Return Scheme or other behavioural incentives would fit with other planned work, such as wider reform of the packaging waste producer responsibility regime and the call for evidence on the potential for taxes or charges for single-use plastics, in order to avoid producers or consumers being charged multiple times for the same products.

“These potential incentives would all work towards the same overall outcomes of increasing recycling and reducing litter.”

However, EAC chair Mary Creagh MP accused the government of ducking the issue.

“The government is dragging its feet on introducing a deposit return scheme,” she said. “Every day the government delays, another 700,000 plastic bottles end up in our streets. This delay is unacceptable; the government must get its ducks in a row. The government needs to take decisive action on this important issue instead of kicking it into the long grass.”