According to DEFRA UK, consumers use an estimated 14 billion plastic drinks bottles, 9 billion drinks cans and 5 billion glass bottles a year. The Government is committed to reducing waste and to ensuring that the UK is a leader in resource efficiency. The Government is committed to introducing a deposit return scheme. A first Government consultation took place in 2019. In view of the disruptions caused by the pandemic Government launched a second consultation. This will assess whether there is a continued appetite for a deposit return scheme and what that might look like in a post Covid world.

When would the deposit return scheme be introduced?

The earliest that any scheme is likely to be introduced now is late 2024.  England lags behind Scotland which plans to introduce its all-in deposit return scheme in July 2022.

What types of packaging are included?

The consultation proposes that all types of drink containers including PRT plastic bottles, steel and aluminium cans and glass bottles ranging from 50ml to 3l will be included. If this definition is adopted it will include both beer bottles and kegs.

How might the scheme work?

Retailers will be required to charge consumers a deposit when cans and bottles of drinks are purchased and to refund the deposit when the packaging is returned to the store. The vast majority of retailers will be required to host a return point. Pricing will need to clearly show the cost of the drink and also the deposit payable.

Implications for drink manufacturers?

Those responsible for placing packaging on the market (e.g. bottled beer) will also to be responsible for the costs of collection and treatment. All drinks producers will be obliged to sign up to the Deposit Management Organisation. They will be required to report on the number of containers placed on the market.  They will also be required to fund the costs of the deposit return scheme through a registration fee. Producers will need to put a deposit on each container placed on the market.  This cost will be passed down the supply chain to the distributor, retailer and ultimately consumer.

Take-away and home delivery

The consultation asks for views on whether operators should be obliged to offer a take back service for drinks packaging delivered with takeaway food. This would require a return visit to the customer to collect any bottles/cans. As there would be an environmental cost of making repeat journeys an alternative would be to leave it to the consumer to return the packaging to a local store.

How will the scheme impact on the hospitality trade?

The consultation document envisages that hotels, restaurants and coffee shops would not be obliged to offer a take back service due to practicalities. Instead the proposal is that the venue should pay the required deposit and then collect the packing back in and return it to the deposit management organisation. In this way the deposit does not need to be passed on to each customer.

The consultation document can be found here

For further information contact Christopher Ainsworth

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.