Glass to be excluded from DRS in England and NI

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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that glass will not be in scope of the planned Deposit Return Scheme in England and Northern Ireland.

The department confirmed this in its response to consultations on reforms to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, which aims to drive up the rates of packaging waste recycling.

Through the introduction of the proposals set out in their EPR consultation and other environmental measures like DRS, the government is aiming to reach a total UK packaging recycling rate of 78 per cent by 2030, with the estimated recycling rates for each material exceeding those set in the European Union, and a minimum recycling rate for packaging that falls within the EPR scheme of 73 per cent by 2030.

Responding to the development, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers in England and Northern Ireland will be relieved that they won’t have to handle the return of glass drinks containers as part of a Deposit Return Scheme. All of the operational problems related to a Deposit Return Scheme – colleague safety, storage, handling heavy waste and breakages – are made much more acute by the inclusion of glass.”

In submissions to the government throughout the consultation process on DRS, ACS has consistently called for the exclusion of glass in the scheme due to the operational and health and safety issues that it presents for retailers and colleagues.

Noting that retailers in Wales and Scotland will have to face into these problems and bear the significant financial and operational costs, Lowman warned that this will be a ‘nightmare’ for wholesalers and producers who will have to make, store and distribute two versions of many products with different packaging types included in DRS systems in different parts of the UK.

“We hope that policy-makers in Wales and especially in Scotland, where the scheme is due to come into effect in just over a year’s time, will reconsider the impact of including glass in the scheme,” he added.

The consultation has also confirmed plans for a mandatory take-back scheme for disposable fibre-based composite cups (such as coffee cups) will go ahead, with businesses that employ more than 10 FTE employees required to comply by the start of 2024 and smaller businesses by the end of 2025. The requirements include the provision of a dedicated bin for the collection of cups, and for businesses to report to regulators the tonnage they have placed on the market/sent to recycling.

Lowman said this could have a significant impact on convenience stores, especially when many will be making major changes as a result of the introduction of DRS.

“We are disappointed at the government’s definition of small businesses in this context, which is inconsistent with other policy areas. We urge the government to rethink its proposals to include the smallest businesses in the reporting requirements for this take-back scheme, and instead use the success of the universal carrier bag charge as a model which does not require small stores to report.”

As part of the wider proposals for EPR reform, packaging producers will be made responsible for the cost of managing the packaging that they place on the market – this is expected to be around £1.7bn per year after previous estimates had put the cost at £2.7bn per year. The cost of managing packaging waste includes:

  • collecting, sorting and recycling of packaging waste from households and businesses
  • collecting and disposing of packaging in the residual waste stream from households only
  • Litter and refuse management costs, including bin and ground litter