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Deposit return scheme and packaging

Environment secretary Michael Gove made a commitment to setting up a DRS in England earlier this year, and it is expected to be a central plank in the resources and waste strategy. It created quite a stir in the sector and, indeed, alarm from some because the flow of materials and money could be greatly affected.

What impact do you think a DRS will have on the UK’s overall recycling rate?


How do you think a DRS will affect your business?


How concerned are you that a DRS will make local authority household recycling collections unviable?


The results reveal some major concerns that Defra will need to listen to. Gove has indicated that legislation for an English DRS will be put before Parliament in 2020. Meetings are already taking place with Scotti sh, Welsh and Northern Irish ministers over how a system can be co-ordinated across the whole UK. Scotland has already launched its DRS consultation and Defra’s is expected soon.

It is worth noting that nearly a quarter of respondents said a DRS would decrease their business’ profits compared with just 10% who said it would increase profits.

A majority (60%) also warn that councils’ household recycling collections could be made unviable if a DRS goes ahead. And it is interesting to see that this worry is shared across companies as well as local authorities. Further analysis of the figures reveals that more than half of respondents from waste management firms said they had either ‘some’ or ‘significant’ concern.

The caution from councils is well documented. Larac supports producer responsibility and said that a DRS “could be a step in that direction”. But chair Carole Taylor has also warned: “The evidence so far for the UK has not shown how a general scheme can be undertaken without cannibalising council kerbside material.” The Local Government Association has also run up the red flag.

But will it be worth all the upset? With 80% of respondents saying that the UK’s recycling rate would be boosted, the answer may be ‘yes’ but there could be some serious teething problems.

Waste management companies, local authorities and manufacturers all seem to agree that everyone will need to get their rightful cut because a DRS alters the flow of materials – and money – around the waste management system.

A perhaps more fundamental issue for respondents is the creation of a market for secondary materials, and a large majority called for minimum recycled content for packaging. There are no indications the Government is considering such a move. But the Treasury is considering using the tax system to increase recycled content.


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