Resource Use

84 per cent of public support ‘all-in’ DRS for drinks containers

84 per cent of the British public believes all drinks containers should be included in the government’s proposed deposit return scheme (DRS), a new poll finds.

The poll conducted by Populus has found the vast majority of the British public are in support of an ‘all in’ DRS, which would see all drinks containers, regardless of size and material, carry a deposit redeemable upon return of the container to incentivise recycling.

The UK Government has committed to introducing a DRS covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2023 in a bid to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers.

An ‘all in’ approach would be similar to that taken by the Scottish Government, which passed legislation to introduce its ‘all in’ DRS in 2022. The legislation will see a 20 pence cash deposit placed on all drinks containers above 50 millilitres and up to three litres in size made from aluminium and steel, glass or PET plastic.

Furthermore, 80 per cent of those polled believe that the scheme should have a variable deposit value depending on the container.

Business leaders and campaigners have expressed concerns surrounding a flat deposit for drinks containers – where the same rate is applied to all containers no matter the size or material – as they argue it could make it more economical to buy larger plastics bottles than smaller cans or glass bottles, further adding to the problem of plastic pollution.

The Populus poll shows significantly higher support for an ‘all in’ DRS from the British public than the government’s consultation last May, where 69 per cent said all drinks containers should be included and 57 per cent favoured a flat deposit level.

The poll took responses from 2,087 members of the UK public aged over 18 between 29-31 May this year and was commissioned by Nature 2030, an international coalition of businesses, politicians and campaigners.

“Time government took its lead from the public”

Giving evidence to the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) yesterday (18 June) the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) George Eustice reiterated that mechanisms such as extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging and DRS for single-use drinks containers are “key to really taking recycling to the next level”.

He added that they will be driven by the “provision and the powers” that are created for them within the government’s Environment Bill, which has passed its second reading but is awaiting the committee stage in Parliament.

Academics, business leaders and campaigners have welcomed the results of the poll, with a spokesman for the Nature 2030 campaign saying: “The Great British public has spoken. With Whitehall set to introduce a deposit return scheme over the next few years, ministers have got the necessary time to design a system that has the support of consumers across Britain.”

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “It’s high time the government takes its lead from the public and introduces a scheme of all sizes and all materials that will give us the best chance to combat litter and plastic pollution once and for all.”

Regarding support for a variable deposit, Rick Hindley, Executive Director at the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Association (Alupro), added: “A carefully designed deposit return scheme could prove game-changing for Britain’s waste management – reducing litter, improving recycling rates and tackling climate change. However, success requires evidence-based planning, collaborative thinking and intricate scheme management.

“An 'all-in' DRS scheme with variable deposit would be the perfect solution – guaranteeing the best possible results by maximising consumer engagement and ensuring inclusivity, while minimising the risk of both unintended economic and environmental consequences. Failing to recognise the public’s views and extensive supporting evidence would undermine the scheme entirely.”

However, Dave Dalton, CEO of British Glass expresses some concern regarding DRS in terms of glass. He said: “British Glass and our member companies fully share the public’s ambition to increase recycling, which is why we’ve set our own 90 per cent recycling target for glass recovery by 2030.

“A DRS is great where existing systems do not exist or function poorly; but when it comes to glass that is not the reality. A DRS will significantly compromise the recovery of jars, splitting glass recycling into two separate systems – which is ultimately detrimental to both.

“We all want to see more recycling, but when it comes to glass, we need to recycle it right. This means improving our current system of household and bottle bank collections to create a truly circular economy and is backed by the whole glass supply chain.”