Paul Taylor, CEO of FCC Environment, looks at the delays that have faced the implementation of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and asks what learnings can the UK Government take from this.
So, the Environment Bill is finally the Environment Act. It certainly took a little longer than expected for it to pass into law – 1,065 days to be exact.
We’re now on tenterhooks awaiting progress around proposals for the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and consistency in recycling and waste collections, with Government responses to all three consultations widely anticipated.
These are expected to be published either later this year, or in early January – although given the consultations’ history and complexities, I wouldn’t be surprised if these dates slip.
The Scottish Government has been quicker off the mark with its attempt to introduce a DRS. However, it has recently been reported that the roll out will face further delays, with the Scottish Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater stating that she was working with Circularity Scotland and the industry to agree final timescales.
Given these further delays in Scotland, and the scheme rumoured to be introduced in either March or October 2023, is it worth us south of the border taking stock on what seems to be an increasingly difficult scheme to implement in practice?
It is important these learnings around DRS are not considered in isolation, but alongside EPR and consistent collections. We are currently at a key juncture for recycling in this country.
DRS is undoubtedly one of the flagship proposals within the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy – itself an integral part, alongside the new Environment Act, of its ambitious, world-leading green promises.
DRS gives us a ground-breaking opportunity to bring in radical change to a system that has been under strain for a number of years. I am not for one moment suggesting that the policy is put on ice, but clearly there are learnings to be had from our friends in Scotland.
Furthermore, it is important these learnings around DRS are not considered in isolation, but alongside EPR and consistent collections. We are currently at a key juncture for recycling in this country. Recycling rates jumped from 11% in 2001 to around 46% in 2019 but have pretty much stagnated ever since.
If we are to make the leap to realise the Government’s target 65% by 2035 – while simultaneously continuing to reduce our reliance on landfill – it is imperative that these new initiatives talk to each other; they must align to ensure the best outcomes that help to reduce waste and boost recycling rates.
The principle behind DRS is not a new one, and I am sure there are others who are old enough to remember taking bottles to the shop to collect refunds.
In today’s world, however, we produce and consume unpresented levels of packaged goods and just because the principle is sound, I cannot reiterate enough the need to ensure all these new measures work collectively in reality.