Environmental Audit Committee launches DRS inquiry

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have released a call for evidence for the future Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in England, running until 5 March.

The House of Commons select group, whose remit is to research environmental policy impacts, is examining how the DRS will be implemented to increase packaging recycling rates and reduce littering.

A DRS is a recycling system that targets commonly littered items – usually drinks containers. Consumers pay a small deposit on items such as plastic bottles and aluminium cans, which can then be refunded at a return point. Return points are usually located at retailer sites that sell similar products. DRSs have been particularly successful in Scandinavian countries, which report over 90% recycling rates of in-scope items.

Stakeholder views

The inquiry aims to examine the possible outcomes of the final DRS scheme, and is specifically asking stakeholders for views on:

  • Types of waste and materials that could be included in the scheme scope
  • Whether these should be limited or ‘all in’
  • Retailer obligations, and what a DRS might mean for consumer behaviour
  • The impact of the scheme on existing recycling or reuse activities
  • What the DRS might mean for local authority kerbside collections

This means it is a good opportunity to submit views that will later be used as an evidence base for policy making, and may contribute toward shaping the future DRS system. Any stakeholder can submit evidence, and the EAC have commented that they ‘particularly encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence’.

The subsequent report will be used for decision making within the consultation process, so retailers and producers alike have an opportunity to submit industry evidence and opinions. Evidence should be submitted through the online portal where submission guidance can also be found, accessible through the link at the end of this article.

Ambitious targets

Introducing a DRS in England was first proposed in the 2018 Resource and Waste Strategy, and it is planned to be implemented alongside EPR measures and consistent household collections in 2023. The strategy signalled governmental ambition to match EU targets that stipulate 77% of single-use plastic bottles should be collected by 2025, and 90% by 2029. To hit these ambitious targets implementation of a DRS will be essential.

This research will build on previous work published by the EAC – including their 2017 report on plastic bottle waste, which found that the UK incinerates, litters and landfills 5.5 billion plastic bottles a year. Since 2001, when mandatory household recycling collection was introduced, UK recycling figures for plastic bottles increased greatly. However, the EAC reports this has plateaued in recent years meaning new recyclate capture systems such as a DRS may provide a much needed boost.

The first consultation for introducing a DRS was released in 2019, and it is expected the second will be published in the first half of this year. Scotland are ahead of the game and plan to launch their DRS in July 2022, whereas Wales and Northern Ireland will likely be aligned with England.

Have your say

You can submit to the EAC call for evidence into a future DRS by clicking here.

If you have any questions on the future DRS, please contact our team.


Louisa Goodfellow

Policy Manager

As Policy advisor Louisa provides key support to our team, including preparing reports on environmental policy issues and maintaining awareness of new developments. As such she will often be found coordinating responses to policy consultations, advocating policy positions and providing internal guidance to current legislation.

Written by Louisa Goodfellow Published 22/02/2021 Topics Consultations
Get in touch