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Concerns over UK govt’s deposit return scheme

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) has raised a number of concerns over the proposed deposit return scheme (DRS) for England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Desposit return scheme sustainability
While the deposit return scheme (DRS) is supported in principle, there are concerns

The UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published the results of its recent DRS consultation on 20 January. Overall, it said the DRS has received ‘strong support’, and said the scheme would become effective from 1 October 2025.

The CIWM said it supported the concept of a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans ‘in principle’.

However, it recommended any decisions should wait until both the national packaging Extended Producer Responsibility and Consistent Collections in England have been fully implemented.

A statement from CIWM said: “In pressing ahead, we are at risk of introducing a scheme that could be very costly and might not have been needed if the desired outcomes from the other initiatives are realised.

“While CIWM can see the merits of excluding glass from a DRS, the fact this has not been applied across all nations means that there will be inconsistencies introduced at a time when we are trying to do just the opposite.

“CIWM is dismayed with the proposed method of payment to local authorities for DRS material that ends up in their management, especially given that the overwhelming response back to government was that redeeming deposits was not workable.

“We would also urge the government to resolve the issue of VAT on the deposit as a matter of urgency, so that all involved have a clear way forward in terms of the finances of the scheme.”

‘Colossal’ undertaking

Trade body UK Hospitality also commented on Defra’s consultation, and noted how the introduction of a DRS in Scotland was a ‘colossal and complex undertaking’. Scotland is planning to roll out its own DRS this year, which has faced widespread backlash from the industry.

Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality chief executive, commented: “Lessons must be learned from [Scotland’s] scheme, in particular the need for ample time to bring businesses along on the journey to ensure it is workable. The [UK] government’s planned implementation in 2025 is an encouraging start.

“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.

“In order for this scheme to be a success, it needs to be designed in tandem with industry and it’s positive that the government has made that commitment today.”

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