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UK's Deposit Return Scheme faces 2027 Delay

Published:  26 April, 2024

Efforts to align the UK's bottle deposit and return scheme (DRS) across all four nations have hit a snag, with an anticipated launch pushed back to 2027, marking a four-year extension from the original timeline.

Initially, the Scottish and Welsh administrations advocated for the inclusion of glass alongside plastic and metal within the scheme, which rewards consumers returning bottles with money or vouchers.

Despite both devolved governments outlining their respective plans for integrated deposit return schemes, the UK government diverged on the matter, citing concerns over complexity and cost associated with incorporating glass. 

Robbie Moore, Defra's parliamentary under-secretary, issued a statement on 25 April, confirming the postponement to 2027 and clarified that the UK scheme would not encompass glass, contrary to the intentions of the Welsh government, which plans to include glass in its forthcoming scheme.

“Launching a DRS in October 2025 was a stretching target date,” Moore said. “Following extensive engagement with industry, who will be responsible for delivering the DRS, and a review of international approaches to DRS implementation, additional time will be needed to efficiently and effectively roll out the schemes across the UK.

“With the agreement of ministerial colleagues across the devolved administrations, the DRS will go live in October 2027.

“Until then, we are committed to engaging with industry and working with a Deposit Management Organisation candidate(s) to finalise the next steps towards DRS implementation.”

In response, Richard Naisby, chair of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), said: “To make the Deposit Return Scheme work for small independent breweries and consumers we need one scheme that is introduced with the same materials, the same rules and on the same day across the UK.

“While much progress has been made across the four nations to align the schemes including a de minimis for low volume products, today’s announcement means that small businesses in Wales will be penalised by the political failure to agree the same materials, with Wales the only nation to include glass. This will create barriers for small breweries to trade, increase costs and reduce the choice and availability of independent beer.”

Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that hospitality businesses had been removed from the list of mandatory return points.

Commenting on the update, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “I’m delighted to see this new phase begin with changes that are good for hospitality businesses, most notably not requiring hospitality venues to host a return point. This was a key ask of UKHospitality and such an approach will avoid unnecessary complexity and cost for businesses.”