Is the UK Finally Going to Have a Deposit Return Scheme?

Suntory, Britvic, Coca-Cola and Danone execs react as the Government says a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks cans, cartons and bottles is coming in 2027

Some of the globe’s biggest beverage companies have reacted with delight to the news that the UK will have a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks cans, cartons and bottles in 2027.

After years of delays, the Government has issued a revised timetable for the long-delayed introduction of the DRS, which is seen as a critical part of embedding recycling and circularity.

A DRS was first promised in 2018 in the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.

How does a Deposit Return Scheme work?

Customers are required to pay a small deposit when buying drinks, which they can receive back as a refund when returning the packaging for recycling through a verified channel.

Possible methods include a return to the counter in supermarkets or through the use of reverse vending machines.

There are potential advantages of a DRS: it reduces illegal dumping by giving a financial incentive; it makes monitoring and enforcement easier; evading the costs is difficult.

Countries that have working DRS schemes include Norway, Finland and Germany.

Karen Betts, CEO, Food and Drink Federation

The industry reacts

Karen Betts, CEO, Food and Drink Federation, said: “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.

“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.

“A consistent, UK-wide approach is the best way to ensure value for money and to drive up the UK’s disappointing recycling rates.”

Dusan Stojankic, Coca-Cola Vice-President, Great Britain and Ireland, said: "At Coca-Cola, we want to recycle every single can and bottle we put onto the market and today’s announcement is a huge step towards the well-designed deposit return schemes that will help us achieve just that.

“To make sure DRS is a success, we must have truly interoperable schemes in place across England, Scotland and Wales.

“Having a common approach will ensure we have a best-in class system in place – and is the only way we will improve the circular economy and cut litter.”

Paul Graham, Managing Director, Great Britain, Britvic plc

Closer to a truly circular economy

Paul Graham, Managing Director, Great Britain, Britvic plc, said: “Britvic has long advocated for an aligned, well-designed deposit return scheme in the UK because we believe it can deliver a truly circular economy and ensure that great packaging never becomes waste.

“This announcement takes us closer to achieving this goal.”

Carol Robert, Chief Operating Officer, Suntory Beverage & Food Great Britain and Ireland, said: “The rest of Europe has moved with the times to create a circular economy for drinks containers, so it's only right that the stopwatch starts again in the UK's race to build an effective Deposit Return Scheme.

“As well as long term benefits such as reduced litter and increased recycling rates, a DRS is also a critical step for businesses, and the UK, to achieve net zero. 

“SBF GB&I has been poised on the starting line and we’re ready to give our full backing to make DRS a reality and a contributor to our goal of achieving 100% sustainable packaging by 2030.” 

Gemma Morgan, Category Director Beverages - Danone UK & Ireland, said: “A DRS helps keep plastic out of nature, increase recycling rates and achieve circularity targets.

“It is currently challenging to get the quality and quantity of recycled material we need here in the UK and we believe a DRS would significantly improve this.”

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