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796 BSDA Banner DRS

Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)

In a DRS, consumers are charged an additional deposit fee when they purchase a drink in a single-use container. This deposit acts as an incentive to support recycling - it is redeemed when the consumer returns the empty container to a return point. Typically, retailers accept and process returns automatically through a 'reverse vending machine', or manually using a collection bag in store. The containers are then collected and recycled, supporting bottle-to-bottle use of materials. The BSDA supports the introduction of a GB-wide DRS.

Deposit return scheme

In a DRS, consumers are charged an additional deposit fee when they purchase a drink in a single-use container. This deposit acts as an incentive to support recycling - it is redeemed when the consumer returns the empty container to a return point. Typically, retailers accept and process returns automatically through a 'reverse vending machine', or manually using a collection bag in store. The containers are then collected and recycled, supporting bottle-to-bottle use of materials. The BSDA supports the introduction of a GB-wide DRS.

The soft drinks and bottled water sectors have always taken recycling, littering and the environment very seriously. We lead the industry in recyclable packaging, with plastic bottles and cans easily recyclable and widely collected for recycling across the country.

We are pleased that recycling/recovery rates for drinks containers have increased over the years, but there is still room for improvement. Industry estimates suggest a UK recycling collection rates of 74% for plastic drinks bottles, and 72% for aluminium drinks cans.

In addition to increasing recycling rates above these levels, a well-designed DRS should also improve the quality and increase the quantity of material collected for recycling and reuse as new packaging. This will support the aims of many producers to move to a more circular model for packaging, supporting bottle-to-bottle and can-to-can recycling, and towards the circular economy we all want to see.

1. Northern Ireland

Government considering proposals to introduce a DRS by 2023

2. Scotland

Scottish Government has regulated for a DRS to start in July 2022 that includes PET plastic, cans, and glass

3. England

Government planning to introduce a DRS in 2023

4. Wales

Government planning to introduce a DRS in 2023

The BSDA supports the introduction of a GB-wide DRS for all plastic (PET) and can beverage containers up to 3 litres in size. Our assessment suggests this is the best way to increase recycling levels and tackle litter. However, this must be accompanied by reform of the current producer responsibility system to create greater transparency and increased investment in UK recycling infrastructure.