‘Sheer foolishness’: Reported delay to UK’s Deposit Return Scheme sparks anger in green economy

UK Government has failed to deny the reports that the DRS could be delayed until 2028.

In late 2018, the UK Government pledged to implement the DRS to boost recycling rates for drinks packaging. However, just 18 months after its announcement, the majority of environmental policymaking in the UK halted as Whitehall resources were redirected to manage the Covid-19 crisis.

As lockdown measures eased and the pandemic lost prominence on the Ministerial agenda, retailers began lobbying for further postponements to the DRS, citing the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Consequently, the nationwide rollout of the DRS in the UK was postponed until early 2025.

However, yesterday (29 February), the i newspaper reported that the scheme is encountering yet another setback, now postponed until 2028, due to disagreements between the UK’s devolved governments over the inclusion of glass alongside plastic cited as the primary reason.

Last year, when the implementation of the scheme was postponed until 2025, the proposals from the Westminster Government suggested excluding glass bottles from the scheme in England and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Wales showed interest in including glass, and Scotland’s DRS proposal notably incorporates glass.

In February this year, Ireland launched its own DRS, offering incentives for recycling plastic drink bottles and aluminium cans.

In the same month, a survey revealed that two-thirds of the British public support the introduction of DRS for plastic, aluminium cans, as well as glass bottles.

Reaction from green groups

The UK Government has reaffirmed its commitment to eliminating avoidable waste by 2050; however, it has failed to deny the reports that the DRS could be delayed until 2028.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We are pushing ahead with our programme of reforms to reduce waste and improve our use of resources and remain committed to our goal of eliminating avoidable waste by 2050.

“It’s essential that we work closely with industry to make sure our reforms will be a success, and we will continue to engage with businesses closely as we proceed with introducing the deposit return scheme.”

The news has sparked disagreement and anger within the green economy.

Greenpeace UK’s political campaigner Rudy Schulkind said: “If these rumours of further delay to the scheme are true, they make a mockery of the Government’s claim to be a world leader on plastic action.

“Our neighbours in Europe have been running DRS schemes successfully for years, they are a popular and incredibly important tool in addressing plastic pollution. Sadly, this Government is all too willing to sacrifice bold action to tackle the climate crisis at the altar of vested interests.”

City to Sea’s policy manager, Steve Hynd said: “More delays on such an important law leave me with a feeling of sadness, and frustration.

“Sadness because when a DRS is delivered well it can not only drive up recycling and drive down littering, but it can also lay the foundations for reusable packing in a truly circular economy.

“But there is also a huge sense of frustration for it is also a sign of sheer foolishness from Government for such important legislation to be so repeatedly delayed. Apart from the obvious environmental impact these delays are having, it is also causing havoc in the private sector.

“I just hope after the election we see some environmental political leadership.”

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