Deposit Return Scheme consultation - Friends of the Earth reaction

Press release
More must also be done Ministers must do far more to reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place
  Published:  24 Mar 2021    |      2 minute read
  • DRS could help cut plastic pollution
  • Scheme should include all bottles, cans and cartons
  • Ministers must resist industry pressure to delay introduction

A comprehensive Deposit Return Scheme [DRS] could be a game-changer in efforts to reduce the huge number of discarded plastic bottles that blight our environment – but it must include all drinks containers of all sizes, Friends of the Earth said today.

The call comes as the government launched a consultation into a Deposit Return Scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Friends of the Earth is calling for the Deposit Return Scheme in England to be:

  • an ‘all in’ scheme that includes all drinks containers (including bottles, cans and cartons), all materials and all sizes.
  • introduced in 2023 as originally planned – not 2024 

It’s been estimated that a staggering 14 billion plastic drinks bottles are used in the UK every year. Many end up polluting our environment, and they are one of the most commonly found, identifiable plastics on UK beaches. 
Friends of the Earth’s plastics campaigner Camilla Zerr said

“A comprehensive deposit return scheme is needed to boost recycling, cut waste and help stem the relentless flow of discarded plastic bottles that blight our environment and threaten our wildlife.

“However, some of these proposals are far too weak. We need an ‘all in’ scheme that includes bottles, cans and cartons of every size and every material.

“Ministers must stand up to industry lobbying because delaying the scheme until 2024 will create even more unnecessary waste and pollution. 

“But focussing on better recycling initiatives like DRS is not enough. Ministers must do far more to reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place. 
“The government must set legally-binding targets to reduce the mountains of plastic waste created every year and ensure that more of our products and packaging are re-used and refilled.”

Friends of the Earth is also calling for 

  •  Legally-binding targets to reduce plastic waste to be included in the Environment Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament. 
  • Government and businesses to do far more to prioritise waste reduction and refill and reuse 

Camilla Zerr concluded

“Initiatives like DRS are popular with the public, because we all want to do the right thing. We have seen fantastic results from the introduction of the carrier bag charge. It’s time to take that thinking and apply it widely, through initiatives like the deposit return scheme, while making sure that the ultimate responsibility for reducing senseless waste lies with manufacturers and government.”


Notes to editors:

  1. The government consultation into a DRS for drinks containers was launched today. It is expected to cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland.   
  2. A DRS is expected to begin in Scotland In July 2022 - but is currently being reviewed. The deposit level has been set at 20p and is due to include PET plastic drinks bottles, aluminium and steel cans, and glass bottles.
  1. Deposit return schemes, which have been introduced in around 40 countries, have had huge success. A German scheme for plastic, glass and metal drink containers has seen recycling rates in excess of 97%.
  1. Earlier this week Friends of the Earth and City to Sea called on politicians, companies and the public to help reduce plastic pollution caused by the billions of single-use plastic water bottles used in the UK every year – including a comprehensive DRS.