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The deposit return recycling scheme is delayed… again

24th March 2021

Government sources have said that the long-awaited deposit return scheme (DRS) announced by ministers in 2018 has once again been pushed back, in a move we call ‘shirking their responsibility.’

A DRS of the sort already in use and seeing huge recycling rates in other countries should have formed a key cornerstone of a green recovery following the pandemic, creating jobs and helping out struggling local councils.

Instead, we’ve heard that the government plans to delay the scheme until 2024 – pushing the responsibility onto a new government.

The introduction of a DRS and the reduction of litter are issues that we’ve campaigned about for many years, and we’ve seen these delaying tactics before.

But this devastating new hold-up suggests that ministers are choosing to listen more to industry lobbyists than to calls to protect the environment, create green jobs after the coronavirus pandemic and limit climate change.

People and planet are calling for a DRS

CPRE has been asking for the introduction of an all-in DRS (one that accepts containers of all types and sizes) for years – but it’s not just us making this demand.

Our surveys have shown that people across England are keen to see much more being done to tackle waste. Over three-quarters of the English public (78%) agreed that the government should be taking more action on litter.

And a comprehensive DRS would represent just such action. We know that a DRS can increase recycling rates of plastic, glass and metal drinks containers to more than 90%. Now was the time to kick into gear with this next step, with lockdown reminding us of the perils of our throwaway culture and England’s broken waste and litter systems.

Tom Fyans, CPRE’s campaigns and policy director, expressed his astonishment at this latest delay:

‘Despite huge public appetite to tackle the waste crisis, we have mountains of litter piling up in our countryside. New research shows that around 8 billion drink containers are landfilled, littered or burnt every year.

‘Despite all this, the government looks set to delay a Deposit Return Scheme until the end of 2024 – essentially shirking their responsibility and waiting for a new government to show any leadership on the issue.

‘This amounts to six long years of dither and delay.’

'... shirking their responsibility and waiting for a new government to show any leadership on the issue.'
Tom Fyans, CPRE campaigns and policy director

Green jobs for the economy, green planet for the climate

The coronavirus pandemic has left the country with an ailing economy – and bringing in a DRS was an opportunity to address this. The introduction of the new system should have formed an essential part of a green recovery, creating jobs in areas that need them.

'The introduction of the new system should have formed an essential part of a green recovery, creating jobs in areas that need them.'

And at present, local councils spend millions each year cleaning up and disposing of littered containers – money that a DRS could save them, easing their financial burden at a time when funds are tight.

In fact, the government’s own analysis showed that an all-in system could create £2 billion for the UK economy through job creation, environmental benefits and cost savings from reduced waste.

The timing of this further delay is especially frustrating given that 2021 sees the UK hosting the COP26 global climate change conference and with this, the Prime Minister had called for ‘a year of climate action’. Boris Johnson’s own claims that the UK would become ‘a global leader’ are undermined by the six-year hiatus on a DRS.

We’ve got the bottle: join us

We’re not impressed with the latest delaying tactics, and will be demanding better.

As Tom puts it, the government’s tardiness is ‘… so much more than kicking the can down the road – it seems that in the face of industry lobbying, ministers would prefer to stick their heads in the sand rather than tackle the problem of waste head-on.’

We won’t be satisfied with warm words and go-slow policies when it’s clear that an all-in DRS is the best option for people, the planet and our economy. Tom notes that ‘the government is showing no leadership on the issue at all. It beggars belief that when the evidence is so clear that an ‘all-in’ deposit system is needed, they are still unwilling to make the polluter pay.’

'The government are showing no leadership on the issue at all.'
Tom Fyans

We’ll keep campaigning, including continuing our partnership work with Greenpeace, Surfers Against Sewage, Keep Britain Tidy and The Marine Conservation Society. Come ‘all-in’ with us to stand for the countryside and the planet: join us now from just £5 a month.

A discarded beer bottle in grass being picked up by a litter pincer
A comprehensive DRS system is known to cut waste and littering and make scenes like this a thing of the past Bill Waters / CPRE


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