A proposed deposit return scheme for drinks cans, plastic containers and glass bottles has been delayed until 2024 ‘at the earliest’.

The UK government announced a second consultation for the proposed deposit return scheme (DRS) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland yesterday (24 March) and said any legislation would not come into effect until ‘late 2024 at the earliest’.

The move was initially proposed by lawmakers in 2018 as part of the UK government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.

The latest consultation will run until 4 June 2021 and will outline the scope for the scheme across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Scottish government is pursuing legislation to introduce its own bottle DRS across the country.

The government has proposed including PET plastic bottles, glass bottles and steel and aluminium cans in the deposit return scheme, however there remains debate surrounding the container sizes covered.

Lawmakers in Wales proposed covering all container sizes up to three litres, while legislators in England and Ireland remain open to covering larger containers or limiting the scheme to bottles up to 750ml in volume.

The UK government said the consultation would be used to gain further views on the topic.

Edwin Poots, minister of agriculture, environment and rural affairs in Northern Ireland, said: “The consultation on a deposit return scheme builds on overwhelming public support in Northern Ireland for such an initiative, and a well-designed scheme would make it easy for consumers to return drinks containers for recycling and to reduce littering.

“It can also create high-value, uncontaminated recycling streams which should advantage UK producers and incentivise investment in the sector.”

The consultation period also aims to set out plans to reform the UK packaging producer responsibility system, which will further extend the responsibility to meet the costs of packaging waste onto producers.

Improving recycling

Despite a delay to the implementation of the scheme, the additional consultation has been welcomed by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which warned that the inclusion of glass bottles might not be the “most cost-effective mechanism to improve packaging recycling”.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said: “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 [deposit return scheme] 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 the including glass in a DRS.”
Via The Spirits Business
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