UK delays deposit return scheme until October 2027

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

It is hoped that DRS will help increase recycling rates across the UK. Credit: Getty / Image Source
It is hoped that DRS will help increase recycling rates across the UK. Credit: Getty / Image Source

Related tags Sustainability

The UK Government has announced plans for the introduction of a deposit return scheme (DRS) from October 2027, pushing back the previously agreed date of October 2025.

In a policy statement issued on 25 April 2024, the UK government, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government announced a revised timeline for the implementation of DRS which includes three phases prior to the planned launch.

In addition to DRS, the statement announced plans to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, while also “improving the effectiveness and consistency of packaging materials collected for recycling in each administration”​ and “working with industry to support voluntary trials for reusable and refillable drinks containers”.

The schemes will introduce a deposit on single-use drinks containers which is refunded upon return of the container, which the Government hopes with act as an incentive for consumers to make returns.

According to the statement, DRS is expected to boost recycling levels for in-scope containers to over 90% by year three of the scheme’s operation.

Revised timeline

Under the new timeline, Phase 1, which requires regulations to be in place and Deposit Management Organisations (DMOs) to be appointed, should be completed by Spring 2025.

Occurring between Spring 2025 and Spring 2026, Phase 2 allows time for DMOs to be established “as an organisation that is capable of running DRS on behalf of industry in each administration and providing businesses with the information needed to prepare for DRS launch”.

Finally, Phase 3 will serve as a roll-out period between Spring 2026 and Autumn 2027, where businesses will need to make the changes required for DRS.

'Good news for the environment, companies and consumers'

Food and Drink Federation CEO Karen Betts welcomed the news, stating that a consistent approach offered the best way to increase recycling rates across the entirety of the UK.

“This means that drinks containers will be able to be recycled and used again more efficiently and easily, which is good news for the environment, companies and consumers,”​ Betts continued.

“It’s critical that the UK’s governments now work closely together to ensure the scheme is easy to use and understand, operating under the same rules and with the same labels across the four nations.”

Drink manufacturers Britvic, Coca-Cola, Suntory Beverage & Food and Danone have all spoken in support of the update, with each outlining their intention to support for the circular economy and better recycling infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Gavin Graveson, senior executive vice president at waste management firm Veolia, said that delaying DRS until 2027 suggested that Defra "is serious about prioritising the big ticket items that will accelerate the circular economy today, whilst laying the groundwork for future developments".

Graveson added: “The extended producer responsibility scheme, for example, will be a gamechanger for the industry. Packaging that is made to be recycled will be the cheapest choice for producers; a positive step for the environment, the economy and consumers.

“We all want to see more recycling in the UK and there are policies already in development that will help improve from recycling about 45% of the waste we produce, to more than 60% in the next few years. It’s about getting the right policies in place, in the right order to make the biggest impact.”

In other news, Calbee Group UK has announced plans to invest £12m in its Seabrook Crisps manufacturing facility in Bradford after gaining planning permission.

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