Is another delay in store for DRS?

Industry shares disappointment on reports of a potential further delay to the deposit return scheme

Glass bottles piled together.
The UK-wide go live date for the deposit return scheme could be delayed until 2028 according to media reports.

MEDIA reports over a potential delays to the UK-wide deposit return scheme (DRS) indicate a new go-live date of 2028.

First broken by The Grocer, the industry magazine has reported that in documents prepared for the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) the earliest date for DRS to run in the UK would be in the second quarter of 2028.

Now national newspaper The I has furthered this belief, stating that ministers have ‘halted’ work on this progress.

While no official announcement has been made by any of the four nations governments, there has been a strong belief across the industry that the go-live date of 2025 is no longer a realistic one.

No information about the rollout has been forthcoming from governments, with no fully operational scheme administrator in place yet or even guidelines over the operation of the scheme including a return handling fee, information about what kind of machines will be required for DRS or waste collection frequency.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), said: “Retailers are committed to delivering an effective deposit return scheme across the United Kingdom.

“To ensure the scheme delivers for consumers it will need to provide fair compensation to retailers and be implemented on a sensible timeframe.

“We await an announcement from the four home nations governments confirming the regulations, scope and timeframe which will allow us to take the next steps towards delivering deposit return.”

With only 19 months to go until the current go-live date for DRS, the outlook certainly looks bleak for many retailers across the whole of the UK.

Delays for DRS are well-known north of the border for Scottish retailers, who have faced time and time again a continued push back on the scheme all the while preparing stores to be ready in time for a go-live date. In fact, 1 March 2024 was the proposed go-live date fro Scotland until the move to go live with the whole UK.

The last delay was announced in June 2023 over the removal of glass waste from the scheme, pushing Scotland to fall in line with the UK-wide go live date of October 2025.

Many stores still operate a deposit return machine for consumers, paying out of their own pockets to introduce the scheme to more of their local shoppers and help familiarise this to them.

And this is also on top of the amount of money sunk into this scheme from the cost of introducing the return machines as well as store refits to make space for the operation.

Facing a further delay would only continue to break confidence in DRS at this point, not only for consumers, but for retailers set to run the scheme as well.

Muntazir Depoti, national president at The Federation of Independent Retailers (The Fed), said: “We will be deeply disappointed if the Deposit Return Scheme is indeed delayed until 2028.

“The Fed has always believed the scheme has huge potential to boost recycling and curb litter, two issues which impact on everyone’s environment and quality of life.

“By learning from the flawed scheme in Scotland which caused us concern, we hoped that a UK-wide scheme would be operational long before 2028.”

A DEFRA spokesperson has reaffirmed the UK government’s priority to work across the industry to support the successful roll out of a DRS across the whole of the nation.

The government department also reassured that it would continue to work with devolved administrations on the matter to ensure the interoperability of the schemes.

The spokesperson said: “We are pushing ahead with our programme of reforms to reduce waste and improve our use of resources and remain committed to our goal of eliminating avoidable waste by 2050.

“It’s essential that we work closely with industry to make sure our reforms will be a success, and we will continue to engage with businesses closely as we proceed with introducing the deposit return scheme.”