Deposit Return Scheme Delay: A Chance to Reorganise and Better Understand

David Wilson is director of compliance at Vanden Recycling, experts in plastics recycling. He shares his thoughts on the most recent delay in the implementation of the Deposit Return Scheme, and whether the delay is in fact, a wise move.

In what is now becoming a theme, we saw last week another delay in the implementation of a headline government recycling policy, this time the Deposit Return Scheme for PET bottles and aluminium cans plus, in Wales, glass containers. The delay is from October 2025 to October 2027.

Of course, there’s general consensus that it’s the right thing to do and the time can be well spent better organising ourselves. Yes, the delay is right but only because the past 5 years failed to grasp early on the complexity of the undertaking. The first DRS consultation in 2019 and was announced in the midst of other major policy launches like EPR, Consistent Collections (now renamed Simpler Recycling), and the Plastics Tax. All this seemed like a co-ordinated policy drive at the time.

Inevitably the complexities not only of implementing DRS itself but it’s interplay with Extended Producer Responsibility and even more critically how it would be co-ordinated across the 4 governments of the UK have become apparent.

In the delay announcement there was the usual DEFRA approach of congratulating all involved in the hard work done to get to this point and the rightness of the policy as now presented, but without really highlighting that a delay had happened. I can’t blame them. When I think of the complex things we’ve tried to do as a company it’s always taken longer than expected and it’s been hard to grasp at the outset what we were taking on.

There has been some acknowledgement that DEFRA and its sister UK departments had almost had to go back to the beginning in their thinking around DRS. What has been actually pretty inspiring is the clear level of cooperation between the 4 UK governments and their willingness to seek advice from industry. There’s a respect for the fact of devolution but also a huge willingness to work together. Plus, the delay was announced in a much more timely manner than the EPR delay of a few months ago.

What I would ask for though, if we do in fact have time for some reflection without causing a further delay, is that we look at some fundamental questions around DRS. Are we really happy that DRS won’t cannibalise income currently going to local authorities as it draws tonnage away from household collections? What will then replace the funding generated for those LAs by the significant intrinsic value of plastic bottles and aluminium cans? What’s the fundamental reason, from a resource perspective, that DRS is targeting anything other than so called “on the go” containers? Is there evidence from elsewhere in the world about what impact DRS will have when superimposed on a mature household recyclate collection system? The Scottish Government claimed there was such evidence during their failed solo run to launch a DRS scheme but didn’t produce it. What is that evidence and what does it teach us?

This delay is well judged, and we will end up with a simpler more robust system without the tensions between nations of the UK that it seemed we would once have. There is an opportunity to make it even better though and ensure it links in an optimum way with the other policy initiatives undertaken by DEFRA and its sister departments in the rest of the UK.

Source: Media Matters / Vanden Recycling




Fachmagazin EU-Recycling