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UK DRS likely delayed until at least 2027

Although not officially announced, it is likely that the implementation of a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in the four UK nations will not go ahead in October 2025. 

Whilst this won’t be a surprise for industry, it will constitute a third delay in plans, as the scheme was originally set to go live in August 2023.  

The news comes after an environment, food and rural affairs select committee session where MPs questioned Steve Barclay, the Environment Secretary, who said an October 2025 start date is “not now a realistic deadline so the issue is an ongoing discussion in government and I suspect 2027 is more likely…It’s being discussed, but 2025 I don’t think it realistic”.  

The DRS has proven to be politically complicated, with issues around interoperability between the four UK nations. A specific issue has been the Scottish and Welsh governments’ intention to include glass bottles in their schemes, despite the UK government’s position that they should not do so and subsequent attempts to enforce alignment under the Internal Market Act.  

Barclay has said the Welsh scheme would continue to be “encouraged” to exclude glass using the above regulatory mechanism, stating “it’s important it is interoperable, and we work closely with the devolved administrations to align it, which is important to business as well.” 

Obligations for drinks container producers 

Once formally communicated, it will be important that the obligations for drinks container producers are made clear, especially in terms of interaction with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) measures.  

Waste management fees under EPR are expected to be due in October 2025, so whether businesses placing drinks containers on the market will be liable for these costs in the intervening years before a DRS is implemented will be an essential consideration.  

Another consideration will be whether the Scottish DRS system – set to go ahead at an earlier date but stymied by the Internal Market Act mentioned above – will follow suit.  

These changes are likely, but not yet confirmed. We will ensure that we update members clearly once these changes are confirmed and in force.  

Ecosurety members can stay up to date by accessing our knowledge articles in the Ecosurety Hub. The changes explained above will be reflected in our DRS guidance articles once they are confirmed.

Written by Louisa Goodfellow Published 27/03/2024 Topics Packaging
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