UK govt responds to claims of blocking DRS

A UK government spokesperson refused to confirm it would block Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS), but said a UK-wide initiative would be its “preference”.

Scotland’s DRS is set to be implemented on 16 August this year, requiring consumers to pay a 20p deposit when buying a drink in a single-use container made from polyethylene terephthalate, glass, steel or aluminium, sized between 50ml and three litres.

The 20p deposit will be refunded by the drink’s producer when the container is returned for recycling at one of 30,000-plus return sites. So far, the scheme has seen backlash from ministers of the Scottish parliament (MSPs), producers, UK Hospitality and more.

After reports circulated online of the UK government’s plan to block the scheme, The Spirits Business reached out for a comment.

A UK government spokesperson responded: “The UK government’s preference would be for a UK-wide DRS as the best way to maximise environmental benefits, minimise disruption to the drinks industry and ensure choice for consumers.

“As the Scottish government is pressing ahead with their own scheme, the UK government is working with them to ensure as much interoperability as possible between the schemes when DRS launches across the UK.”

Providing background to the UK government’s involvement with the DRS, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) also wrote that the DRS is a ‘major piece of work’, which requires ‘much coordination across the UK government, the devolved administrations and key industry stakeholders, which will also require new legislation, the appointment of new organisations to manage the schemes and large-scale changes to the sector’.

The UK government said it remains in ‘close contact’ with officials to ‘learn from the delivery of the Scottish scheme’.

It will ‘align on key decisions’ wherever possible.

The government said it would ‘not necessarily’ follow Scotland’s approach for the DRS scheme, and that it recognises the ‘challenges’ between the ‘differences in scope between [the] DRS schemes’ with regards to the supply chain.

The government will continue its ‘engagement’ with the industry as it rolls out the DRS.

The UK’s DRS is being worked on in collaboration with the Welsh government and Defra in Northern Ireland. It is set to launch in October 2025.

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Author: Alice Brooker