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24 Jan 2024

Green initiatives in food and drink are welcome – but here’s how we get them right

Green initiatives in food and drink are welcome – but here’s how we get them right

As we gear up for a General Election later this year, one of the main political topics is likely to be the environment. The UK’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) continues to be policy in the making, one of many green initiatives on the table, and the next UK Government seems set to be the one which will have responsibility for overseeing the full, belated rollout of DRS.

In June 2023, Scotland delayed its DRS to bring it in line with the launch of DRS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, we need to see more than just aligned dates if the scheme is to be a success. Consistency across DRS systems within the UK is quintessential to its output and – if done correctly – will give DRS the best chance of kick-starting the UK’s circular economy for drinks containers.

The BSDA and its members urge the UK Government and Devolved Governments to publish a joint statement as soon as possible on how they plan to create a consistent and unified scheme. We hope this will provide clarity to Industry on the interoperability of the scheme, particularly on the issue of glass, which Wales and Scotland are proposing to include as part of their DRS systems, as opposed to England and Northern Ireland, neither of whom plan to collect it as a DRS material.

The introduction of a UK-wide DRS for all plastic (PET) and can beverage containers up to 3 litres in size – the optimal DRS model – must also be accompanied by reform of the current producer responsibility system to create greater transparency and increased investment in UK recycling infrastructure. The UK Government’s planned Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme is designed for food and drink producers to pay the full net costs of managing and recycling the packaging waste arising from products they place on the market. The aim of EPR is to help drive further circularity of packaging by reducing unnecessary and difficult-to-recycle packaging and increasing recycling. 

However, EPR is a complex project and will place substantial new costs on drinks producers, much of which will likely end up getting passed on to consumers. We are calling on the UK Government to make three things clear on the future of EPR as soon as possible:

  • When is it happening?
  • Where will glass fit into EPR if this material is removed from the deposit return scheme?
  • Provide Industry with the exact costs of EPR so that businesses can prepare for its arrival.

If we can get all the above right on both DRS and EPR, reducing litter and increasing recycling won’t just be a buzz-phrase but a tangible, long-overdue reality.

Gavin Partington, BSDA Director General

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