'Colossal and complex' plastic bottle deposit return scheme to launch in 2025

20 January 2023 by
'Colossal and complex' plastic bottle deposit return scheme to launch in 2025

The launch of a scheme designed to boost recycling of plastic bottles and drinks cans has been delayed until October 2025 across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Deposit Return Scheme was due to roll-out in 2024 but will now begin in 2025 to give businesses more time to prepare.

The scheme will see a small cash fee added on to the price of single-use drinks containers which will be refunded when people return their bottles.

Special machines, known as ‘reverse vending machines', will be introduced to accept containers at designated sites.

The government said "in most cases" retailers who sell drinks covered by the scheme will host a return point.

A similar initiative is due to launch in Scotland in August, where people will be charged a 20p deposit.

The other three nations have not yet set how much they will charge. This will be decided by the Deposit Management Organisation, an industry-led body which the government said would be set up to run the scheme.

UK consumers use around 14b plastic drinks bottles, and nine billion drinks cans every year, with many littered or sent to landfill.

The aim is to reduce the number of drinks containers discarded by 85% within three years.

"This will provide a simple and effective system across the country that helps people reduce litter and recycle more easily, even when on the move," said environment minister Rebecca Pow.

Cross-border differences

Glass will be excluded from the scheme in England and Northern Ireland but included in Scotland and Wales.

This split received a mixed reaction from industry groups with the Society for Independent Brewers (SIBA) warning it could cause barriers to trade.

"Sadly, agreement could not be reached amongst the four nations and now we will have a piecemeal system with different containers and requirements in different parts of the UK," SIBA said.

However, the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) welcomed the exclusion and said it was better to improve kerbside collection of glass rather than move to a new system.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the scheme was a "colossal and complex undertaking" and that businesses needed ample time to prepare.

Nicholls added: "There will be nuances between sectors which need factoring into the scheme's design. For example, the operation of an online takeback scheme is simply not practical for hospitality. We would encourage the government to provide an exemption for this, like in Scotland."

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said the government urgently needed to set up the Deposit Management Organisation to give businesses further information about how the scheme would run.

The DRS is the latest government initiative designed to cut down on plastic waste. A ban on selling single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers will come into force in England in October, following the launch of a similar scheme in Scotland.

Image: Kwangmoozaa / Shutterstock

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