DRS delay disappointing but not unexpected, comments Alupro

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On 25 April, the UK government published a statement confirming a delay to the introduction of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers to October 2027.

Alongside the delay, Defra revealed that decisions had been reached regarding joint registration and reporting, labelling, reciprocal returns, deposit level, minimum container size, and low volume sales. In addition, they reiterated that glass drink containers would be excluded from the scheme in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, on the grounds of ‘undue complexity’ and ‘handling costs’.

Commenting on the announcement, Tom Giddings, executive director of Alupro, said: “Given the recent lack of progress, the long lead time needed for implementation and rumours of a delay circulating for a number of months now, today’s announcement is far from a surprise. However, with the policy first announced in 2018 and two consultations subsequently held in 2019 and 2021, it’s hugely disappointing that the scheme will have taken almost a decade since its inception to come to fruition.

“Developed with the ambition of further driving recycling rates, as well as reducing litter and plastic pollution, a well-designed DRS provides a once in a generation opportunity to revolutionise the circular economy of drinks containers. We have always wholeheartedly supported its implementation, with a number of important caveats, as outlined within our aluminium manifesto.

“It’s frustrating to hear that the Government is putting its head in the sand when it comes to embracing an all-in scheme and supporting a fair and level playing field for all competing materials. Reversing this decision is probably somewhat of a foregone conclusion, however, even if excluded from the scheme, glass beverage containers should still be subject to equal collection and recycling targets under the EPR system.

“But material inclusion is just one of several decisions that still need clarifying. Now that the 2027 go live date has been confirmed, the Government must immediately turn its attention to ensuring that proactive decisions are made to ensure the scheme delivers the best possible long-term results.

“Firstly, it’s imperative that the DRS should embrace a variable rate deposit, supported by a maximum deposit level that allows flexibility. This is critical to prevent imbalance in the market for beverage containers sold in multipacks. We’ve seen such a system implemented just this year in the Republic of Ireland to great success.

“Secondly, it’s vital that the DRS is seen as a circular economy scheme, not an anti-litter one. Collected material should be accessible and available to the recyclers of aluminium packaging, as it is now. This means that, once collected, the scheme can facilitate the supply of new recycled beverage containers – such as aluminium cans.

“Finally, the scheme must recognise the role aluminium’s high value plays in funding the collection of aluminium cans in a DRS and use this to offset the costs for obligated can-using businesses only.

“While the process we’re currently going through has been thwarted with delays and change, we should not focus entirely on the negatives. Despite frustrations, the introduction of the scheme should be seen as a positive and, as an industry, we need work hard to maximise its long-term impact.

“Ensuring legislation is robust and delivers the maximum possible impact is pivotal. The government must therefore make big and well-informed decisions to create a dependable system for the future. After all, to achieve an effective DRS, we need to work collaboratively. Doing so is essential if we are to roll out a scheme that improves recycling rates and reduces litter, while also creating a system that works and sets the international standards for success.”

For more information about Alupro, visit www.alupro.org.uk. To download its 2024 manifesto, click here.

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