​UK's Deposit Return Scheme Postponed until 2027

​UK's Deposit Return Scheme Postponed until 2027

Posted by Emma on 29th Apr 2024

The UK hospitality industry has responded positively to the government's significant decision to postpone the implementation of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers to October 2027, a notable shift from the originally planned 2023 start. The DRS, a key initiative to boost recycling rates, involves applying a refundable deposit to single-use bottles and cans, which consumers can reclaim upon returning the containers.

Recent government updates have made it clear that hospitality venues are not obligated to serve as collection points under the revised plan, but they are welcome to participate voluntarily. This update comes after the scheme experienced several delays, first introduced in 2018 by then-Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Initially scheduled for a 2023 rollout, the DRS's start date was moved to 2024, then to 2025, to allow more business preparation time. Following a June 2023 decision related to the UK Internal Market Act, Scotland planned to synchronise its DRS with the 2025 timeline. Still, it faced pressure from the UK government to modify its inclusion of glass in the scheme.

Wales remains the sole UK nation planning to include glass bottles in its DRS. Robbie Moore, the minister for water and rural growth, has stated that the UK will continue encouraging the Welsh government to remove glass from its DRS. He noted that successful implementation across the UK would require more time, based on feedback from the industry and international DRS models, with an adjusted launch date set for October 2027.

Industry leaders have voiced their support for the delay. Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, described it as recognising the extensive preparations needed. Leon Thompson of UKHospitality Scotland highlighted the cost and challenge of requiring Scottish hospitality venues to act as return points, praising the decision for an optional system. In contrast, David Chapman of UKHospitality Cymru emphasised the need for a UK-wide material consensus, noting that while Wales may differ by including glass, the exemption of hospitality venues from acting as return points alleviates some concerns.

Emma McClarkin, CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association, has highlighted the complex challenges posed by the varying approaches to the DRS across the UK. She has drawn attention to the staggering volume of single-use drink containers purchased annually in the UK—31 billion—and stressed the urgency of improving the current 70-75% collection rate to at least 90%.