Drinks firm plea

Call to revive stalled deposit return scheme

DRS collection point at Aldi - deposit return
Scotland’s DRS collection points remain unused

An executive of a soft drinks company wants renewed action to revive the stalled recycling scheme for drinks containers.

Plans for a UK-wide deposit return scheme (DRS) became embroiled in the fiasco over Scotland’s attempts to bring in one of its own.

Julian Hunt, vice-president of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, the sole licensed bottler for products of The Coca-Cola Company in Europe, is urging ministers to introduce legislation for a UK scheme before the general election.

“My plea to policymakers, on behalf of the beverage sector, is we really can’t have the UK being the dirty man of Europe when it comes to this,” he told delegates at a conference for retailers last week.

“It’s really time that the four governments come together and start to sort this out, irrespective of where we are in the electoral process.”

On current plans it will be 2028 at the earliest before a DRS is operating across the UK.

A DRS works by charging shoppers a small deposit for the bottle or can their drink comes in. Consumers can then get that money back when they return the bottle or can to a collection point to be recycled.

Scotland’s minister for recycling Lorna Slater was roundly criticised by the drinks and retail industry for what was regarded as a botched plan north of the border.

It was finally abandoned last year and the administrator was forced to shut down after companies invested considerable sums in infrastructure and staff. Critics called for Scottish ministers to work with the UK government to introduce a UK-wide scheme.

Other countries have had more success. More than six million drinks containers have been collected across the Republic of Ireland since it launched its scheme on 1 February. Other countries in Europe, such as Germany, also have functioning systems.

“Our friends and colleagues in the Republic of Ireland were the 43rd country to launch a DRS in February this year,” Mr Hunt said at the Retail Week Live conference.

“It’s been a pretty darn successful launch built on pragmatism and collaboration.However, we still have a lack of clarity across Great Britain. We’ve still got concerns that we could end up with three different schemes. That is not just bad for business and bad for consumers but bad for the environment.”

Retailers in the UK have cautioned against legislation being rushed through. Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, the industry body, said it was “essential that the government takes the time to get it right”.

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