DRS back in focus as government re-introduces Environment Bill

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Government has re-introduced the landmark Environment Bill to parliament, proposing the introduction of a deposit return scheme among other measures.

The bill was originally introduced in October 2019, but delayed by the General Election before moving onto the committee stage.

The bill introduces measures to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats.

The enhanced bill proposes new powers to stop the exports of polluting plastic waste to developing countries and a new commitment to review the biggest developments in environmental legislation from around the world every other year.

The bill also proposes powers to ensure producers’ responsibility for the waste they create, bottle deposit return schemes (DRS) and powers to introduce new charges on single use plastics.

“We have set out our pitch to be a world leader on the environment as we leave the EU and the Environment Bill is a crucial part of achieving this aim. It sets a gold standard for improving air quality, protecting nature, increasing recycling and cutting down on plastic waste,” Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said.

Defra has earlier said that it would hold a second consultation on the proposed regulatory framework for introducing a DRS through secondary legislation, including more detailed proposals for the nature of any such scheme.

The Association of Convenience Stores has warned that the legislation will pose operational challenges for local shops, especially around the details of a deposit return scheme which would require retailers to take back drinks containers in stores.

“The Environment Bill is an opportunity to improve recycling rates and reduce littering, but the operational challenges this brings for local shops must also be considered,” said James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS.

“We want to help shape the legislation to deliver a deposit return system that is cost neutral for local shops and convenient for consumers by putting return points in the right locations.”

On charges for single use plastics, Lowman said: “The government has made significant progress in reducing waste from single use plastics but has yet to take the simple step of extending the single use carrier bag charge to independent retailers. Over half of independent retailers already charge for plastic bags and there is wider support for everyone being included in the bag charge.”

Food and Drink Federation has urged the government for an integrated approach to tackle the issue of plastic.

Helen Munday, chief scientific officer of the FDF, said: “Our industry has a shared ambition with government to tackle the issue of plastic in the environment and knows that more must be done to drive up recycling across all materials. We urge governments across the UK to ensure an integrated approach on the measures proposed in this Bill to boost the UK’s recycling system. This should include bringing an end to inconsistent collections which are currently hampering much-needed investment in infrastructure.”