Flagship government recycling scheme delayed until 2027 in ‘slap in the face’

Campaigners said the delay was a ‘slap in the face’ and was ‘nothing short of disastrous’ for the environment

Athena Stavrou
Thursday 25 April 2024 20:34 BST
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The government has admitted that a flagship scheme for recycling drinks bottles and cans has been pushed back to late 2027.

Campaigners said the delay was a “slap in the face” and was “nothing short of disastrous” for the environment as the long-planned deposit return scheme for drinks containers will now not be brought in across the UK for another three years.

The scheme will now not include glass bottles when it comes into place in October 2027.

When it comes into effect, the scheme will see consumers recoup a small deposit when they return single-use bottles and cans. It has been in development in the Environment Department (Defra) since 2017 and was part of the 2019 Tory manifesto.

Its anticipated launch date has already been delayed from late 2024 to October 2025, after the scheme faced heavy criticism from some in the drinks industry, and Environment Secretary Steve Barclay suggested last month that launching it then was not realistic.

The scheme will now not include glass bottles when it comes into place in October 2027
The scheme will now not include glass bottles when it comes into place in October 2027 (PA Wire)

Setting the start date for the scheme in October 2027, Mr Barclay said the previous goal of October 2025 was a “stretching target date” and additional time “will be needed to efficiently and effectively roll out the schemes across the UK”.

Discrepancies between devolved administrations over whether glass bottles would be included have also complicated the roll-out.

In a ministerial written statement Mr Barclay said including glass would “create undue complexity for the drinks industry and it increases storage and handling costs for retailers”.

He said the Welsh Government was intending to include glass when their scheme launches, but drinks in glass containers made or imported into England, Northern Ireland or Scotland would not be subject to a Welsh deposit return scheme.

But anti-litter charity Keep Britain Tidy described the delay as “nothing short of disastrous for the environment and a slap in the face for anyone who cares about the state of litter in this country”.

The charity’s chief executive, Allison Ogden-Newton, said: “This is our chance to tackle the drinks litter that makes up more than 70 per cent of litter by volume in this country at the same time as dramatically improving recycling, and all without leaving the taxpayer out of pocket.

“Their decision to postpone introduction to October 2027 is nothing short of disastrous for the environment and a slap in the face for anyone who cares about the state of litter in this country.

“This delay means oceans of bottles and cans will continue to needlessly pile up in bins and continue to be strewn on roadsides and in our green spaces, rather than being recycled.”

She also described the exclusion of glass as “hugely disappointing” as glass containers start fires and cause harm to people, pets and wildlife, and said 78 per cent of people wanted to see it included in a deposit return scheme.

“We estimate that between now and October 2027, an eye-watering 25 billion bottles and cans will be littered, buried or burned.

“So Keep Britain Tidy is urgently calling on any future government to make this the number one priority in the war against our spiralling waste crisis,” she said.

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