10th October 2019 | The Savoy, London, WC2R 0EZ
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The case for a GB-wide DRS

As it stands, Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) is planned to come into force by 2021. However, a DRS in England and Wales may not be introduced until 2023 or later.

This gap in timing poses significant challenges for businesses producing and trading throughout the UK. Introducing a Scotland-only DRS, years before the rest of Great Britain, runs a significant risk of being undermined by fraud. For example, product purchased deposit free in England being returned to the Scottish system for redemption, skewing the finances of any DRS-operating company. We urge Government to work with the devolved administrations to consider one GB-wide system that will increase recycling rates across the country. This will also ensure consistency, maximise recycling and tackle fraud.

There is also a risk of consumer confusion if various schemes operate with different products and materials, deposit levels, return locations and consumer-facing communications. Border issues and fraud present a major risk, too, and we estimate that over half a billion beverage containers are crossing the Scotland-England border each year.

There are no simple or efficient solutions on the part of producers or retailers, whose operations are GB-wide. Changing production lines to produce country specific items/SKUs is costly, and will not solve the issue due to the nature of the market. In addition, changes to storage and logistic networks for retailers will be complex and costly.

As for the fraud risk that could arise through the operation of two different schemes, it is worth acknowledging that the California state body found that $30m (£19m) was being claimed for illegal redemption in the state each year. The DRS run in the Australian state of New South Wales, meanwhile, is having to compensate beverage retailers for loss of sales up to 80km from the state border.