DRS deposit return scheme

The technology required to run a digital deposit return scheme system (DDRS) across the UK is “ready to go” , supermarket and suppliers have been told.

Polytag, which has conducted the biggest trials to date of the new technology to date with Wells Farm Dairy, is calling for ministers to adopt a DDRS system allowing households using smartphone apps to redeem their 20p deposits via kerbside collections. This would enable a big rethink on the need for thousands of reverse vending machines (RVMS) in supermarkets.

Speaking to companies at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, near Chester, Polytag CEO Alice Rackley admitted there had been doubts over whether a digital solution was credible but claimed a major new breakthrough in the technology meant it was now ready to be rolled out at sufficient scale.

“Some people have questioned in the past how close we are to delivering a digital solution but today we are here to show you it is ready,” she told companies.

“We have invested in every facet of the tech that is required to deliver it.”

Rackley said Polytag had “cracked” how to retrofit unique QR codes on to products falling under DRS after they rolled off the production lines of fmcg companies, vastly reducing the costs, as well as tackling fears over fraud.

“There been some concerns from producers that they don’t have the capacity to print entire digital labels,” said Rackley. “We are saying you don’t need to.”

Polytag said it was “frustrated” that the Scottish government was pressing ahead with a “carbon intensive” DRS system due to launch In August 2023, which would require 10,000 reverse vending machines and 37,000 “take back points”.

Rackley said the country faced being left with millions of pounds worth of “stranded assets”.

The UK government is due to publish a response to a consultation on the future of DRS later this month, though there are fears it may be delayed because of the crisis in Ukraine,

It would mean a DRS system in the UK would be highly unlikely to be in place before 2025.

“We are all waiting, and we hope it will be sometime soon, but we very much feel digital should be part of the solution the government proposes,” said Rackley. “The time is now.”