Government ‘risks breaking manifesto pledge to deliver bottle deposit scheme’

Greenpeace and Coca-Cola are among those calling on ministers to urgently introduce legislation for the flagship recycling scheme.

Rebecca Speare-Cole
Wednesday 13 March 2024 00:01 GMT
Greenpeace and Coca-Cola are among those to sign a letter calling for the Government to introduce the recycling scheme. (Jonathan Pow/PA)
Greenpeace and Coca-Cola are among those to sign a letter calling for the Government to introduce the recycling scheme. (Jonathan Pow/PA) (PA Wire)

The Government is at risk of breaking its manifesto commitment to deliver a flagship recycling scheme, a coalition of retailers, drinks producers and environmental groups have warned.

The Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), which would see consumers recoup a small deposit when they return single-use bottles and cans, has been in development in the Environment Department (Defra) since 2017 and was part of the 2019 Tory manifesto.

However, the policy has been beset by delays, with the Government currently intending to introduce it by October 2025 – although recent reports said the scheme may not be operational before 2028.

In a letter to recycling minister Robbie Moore on Wednesday, several campaign groups and companies warned the Government that it is at risk of breaking its manifesto commitment unless it urgently introduces legislation to Parliament.

Greenpeace, Coca-Cola, the Rivers Trust, Surfers against Sewage, the RSPCA, Keep Britain Tidy, The Federation of Independent Retailers, Reloop, and the British Soft Drinks Association were among the signatories.

The letter said: “The Government’s intention to introduce deposits in England & Northern Ireland by October 2025, alongside parallel systems planned for Scotland and Wales, is a reform that is essential to boosting economic, social and environmental wellbeing up and down the country.

“We urge the Government to deliver its 2019 manifesto pledge by laying legislation this spring, ahead of the next General Election.”

The signatories warned that the the UK is falling behind other European countries which have a DRS – including Germany, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Latvia, Slovakia and Hungary – while more are set to introduce a scheme in the next 18 months.

The letter cited a 2022 survey from Keep Britain Tidy, which found that drinks containers make up 75% of street litter by volume, as well as research from the Marine Conservation Society, which found them on 93% of UK beaches surveyed.

It also referenced recent YouGov polling, which suggests that 66% of Britons supported the introduction of a DRS, with only 13% opposing it.

Cassie Rist, senior policy officer and advocacy adviser at Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “A Deposit Return Scheme is an essential part of investing in green infrastructure, boosting recycling rates and stopping the waves of pollution going into our oceans, beaches and other natural spaces.

“As well as further environmental impacts closer to home, any more delay to this would send a bad signal on the world stage as we get towards crucial talks on the Global Plastic Treaty in April.”

Jenni Hume, UK and Ireland director of circular economy experts Reloop, said: “In the UK, continued delays mean that bottles and cans are still littering our countryside and entering landfill or incineration rather than recycling plants, or being reused.

“Ministers must keep pace with international counterparts and deliver the necessary legislation before Parliament ahead of a General Election.”

Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “We strongly support the introduction of a well-designed deposit return scheme and continue to urge the UK Government and Devolved Governments to press ahead with the introduction of an interoperable DRS to help kick-start the UK’s circular economy, reduce littering and increase recycling.”

The PA news agency has contacted Defra for comment.

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