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Don’t drop the DRS

Drinks industry and environmental charities come together to call on prime minister to keep deposit return scheme manifesto promise
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Plastic bottle litter left on a countryside path in the low winter sun

Keep Britain Tidy, along with manufacturers, retailers and environmental organisations, has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to work with the rest of the UK governments and press ahead with a deposit return scheme (DRS) to protect the environment from littered drinks packaging and dramatically increase recycling rates.
 
The charity’s research shows more than 70% of litter is the result of drinks consumption with around 20 million drinks containers littered, incinerated or ending up in landfill daily – that’s more than seven billion wasted every year.

Recycling and net zero

Following recent reports about the costs of DRS and calls to abandon it, the cohort – including major soft drinks producers Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Suntory, the British Soft Drinks Association, a raft of environmental organisations including WWF, Surfers Against Sewage and the Marine Conservation Society and trade body the Federation of Independent Retailers – is collectively voicing support for the government’s commitment to DRS, reiterating it should be aligned across all nations in terms of deposit levels, timeline, scope and fees.
 
The government has pledged a target of reaching net zero by 2050 but this will require stagnant recycling rates to increase significantly.
 
The most effective way of achieving this is through the introduction of a DRS, which will provide the infrastructure to help significantly increase recycling rates – at no cost to the taxpayer.

Along with plans for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging, a DRS has huge potential to both address the litter crisis and create a more circular economy, with valuable packaging materials retrieved and reused rather than ending up being buried, burned or littered.

‘Only a deposit return scheme can clear up the mess left by littered drinks containers and provide the high-quality recycling needed to help the UK move towards a long overdue circular economy for drinks packaging. That’s why a DRS is the policy that carries almost universal support from manufacturers through to consumers and everyone in between.
 
‘We’ve joined forces with a network of leading organisations from different sectors to reiterate our support for the Government’s commitment and ambition to introduce a comprehensive deposit return scheme, using our strong joint voice.’

ALLISON OGDEN-NEWTON OBE
Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive

A consistent DRS across UK nations

 
Many drinks manufacturers and retailers have made similar commitments and signed external pledges that are all conditional on a DRS being implemented with consistency across UK nations.
 
The government estimates that deposits will drive down littering of these items by 85%, removing them from the environment and returning them to producers to make new products.
 
Polling carried out by YouGov on behalf of Keep Britain Tidy showed that two-thirds of the public support the introduction of a DRS scheme, and 36% support a deposit of up to 20p per container.
 
More than 40 countries have already successfully implemented a DRS with the best designed seeing return rates of up to 98% as a result.

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