Continuous delay

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It’s safe to say that many UK metal packaging manufacturers, organisations and suppliers are feeling disappointment at the recent news of the UK’s DRS being delayed yet again, this time by another two years, to October 2027.

To reiterate Tom Giddings, executive director of Alupro, who commented on the delay earlier this week, the decision at this point hardly comes as a surprise, but is no less frustrating because of it. There of course must be an emphasis on making the scheme as robust as possible, but the more we delay, the more it seems the government is shying away from the big picture, which is tackling the climate crisis head-on and moving toward a more circular economy.

The government is also still pushing for glass not to be included, which remains a controversial decision. Scotland’s DRS has now been delayed to 2025, after a disagreement between its government and the UK government, which the UK blocked using post-Brexit legislation (the Internal Market Act). Environment minister, Robbie Moore, stated the inclusion of glass would cause “undue complexity for the drinks industry,” as well as being “more difficult” for consumers to return due to their weight and fragility. There are still pushbacks happening at the time of writing from the Welsh government on this issue, something which the UK has cited as a contributing reason for the October 2027 delay.

The BBC has drawn particular attention to environment groups such as the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), who are in favour of glass inclusion in the scheme. MCS chief executive, Sandy Luk, said: “We call on the UK government to speed up this law and to follow Wales’s ambition to include plastic, metal and glass.”

Some would argue that consumers witnessing all the back and forth decision-making is creating further confusion regarding each of the packaging material’s recyclability. In a piece from The Guardian, British charity, Keep Britain Tidy, has said it estimates that 25 billion bottles and cans will be littered between now and the start of the scheme. That’s a concerning figure – personally I feel that purposeful littering in any form should be considered a more extreme offence – and one that is worth taking notice of; some people do decide to take the easy way out of deciding on packaging recyclability. The DRS could definitely aid in curbing some of this behaviour, with an incentive to return these packaging items to their origin of purchase, rather than leave them on the ground for someone else – or the environment – to deal with.

Clearly there are more debates to be had before further progression can be made, but let’s hope that this is the very final delay from the UK government on its DRS implementation.

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