• GreenInfrastructureWeek
Why drinks producers support the introduction of a deposit return scheme

Why drinks producers support the introduction of a deposit return scheme

The British Soft Drinks Association, the Food and Drink Federation and the Natural Source Waters Association believe a deposit return scheme is a proven and cost-effective strategy to increase recycling, promote a circular economy and reduce litter, decreasing waste and cutting carbon emissions.

Litter and its impact on the environment in the United Kingdom has long been a focal point of drinks producers, charities and the government alike.

In the 2022 Great British Beach Clean, 396 litter items were found for every 100m of UK beach cleaned, and public litter (litter that was not disposed of correctly) made up 40 per cent of this. There have long been proactive efforts to tackle this issue, from campaigns like Hubbub’s producer-supported In the Loop initiative to government bans on single-use plastic items. However, there is still a need for additional robust, sustainable and effective solutions. This requires a co-ordinated effort from all four governments in the UK, in partnership with businesses.

A deposit return scheme (DRS) is an environmental policy to encourage the recycling of drink containers. A consumer will pay a deposit when purchasing a drink in a container, such as a bottle or a can. This will then be refunded when they return the container to a collection point for recycling.

A DRS has three clear goals:

1. Increase recycling rates
Successful established schemes in other countries have achieved recovery rates of up to 95 per cent of the containers sold, securing this material to be recycled.

2. Create a circular economy
Improved recycling will increase the availability of high-quality recyclate, keeping the materials in use, and moving from a linear use and discard economy to a circular economy where packaging materials are reused as packaging.

3. Reduce litter
Securing drinks packaging within a DRS would cut the amount being littered by encouraging responsible disposal.

Meeting these three goals would be a huge step in helping the UK achieve its sustainability goals by significantly reducing waste and cutting carbon emissions. Research shows that a successful DRS could reduce carbon emissions by nearly 4m tonnes over 25 years – equal to 90,000 cars being taken off roads in the UK.

DRS is a proven and cost-effective strategy that has a successful record worldwide. It will support the UK’s environmental goals while preserving public funds, making it a win-win solution. In addition to this, a DRS would stimulate local investment in recycling infrastructure, in turn boosting the UK’s green economy and enhancing our environmental innovation reputation. 

Our members at the British Soft Drinks Association, the Food and Drink Federation and the Natural Source Waters Association, are all committed to the delivery of a working DRS system. Many have expertise managing and implementing successful DRS systems in other countries. 

We are calling for firm commitment to a UK-wide DRS from the governments of all four nations, with alignment of scope across the UK and the relevant legislation put in place. Producers can then work with others to begin implementing the scheme. 

A DRS is something that should transcend party lines and be unaffected by political transitions. A successful scheme will bring significant, long-term environmental and economic benefits to the UK.