Deposit Return Scheme
Drinks litter is one of the most commonly found items on our beaches. We've been calling for Deposit Return Schemes to be urgently introduced across the UK.
What is a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)?
You pay a small deposit on top of the price of a drink. When finished, you return the drinks container to a collection point - in a supermarket or shop for example - where you get your money back.
This sort of system would reduce littering, putting a value on what is commonly seen as 'worthless', and encourage others to pick up drinks litter they come across. It’s a simple idea which would have an immediate impact.
Credit: Natasha Ewins
Credit: Triocean via Shutterstock
Credit: Canetti via Shutterstock
Why do we need Deposit Return Schemes?
DRS reduce litter and help the drive towards a circular economy - where materials aren’t lost, but used again and again.
Between 1994-2019, we've seen a 32% increase in drinks containers across the UK.
Since we started our beach clean surveys in 1994, drinks containers have been a constant presence. Over the last five years, an average of 48 drinks containers were found on every 100 metres of beach surveyed.
Our Bottles for Change campaign, launched in 2018, gathered more than 25,000 signatures in support of a DRS for all drinks containers, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We’ve seen incredible public support for a Deposit Return Scheme and further delay means more bottles and cans blighting our beaches.Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas
Progress in the UK
In January 2023, the UK Government for England announced plans for a DRS to be introduced by 2025. This follows a number of consultations which gathered insights from members of the public and businesses into how a DRS could work. Read our response to the consultation.
Although the introduction of the scheme is a step in the right direction to reduce drinks-related litter such as plastic bottles and aluminium drinks cans, glass will not be included.
In their 2019 manifesto, the UK Government committed to a Deposit Return Scheme including glass: “We will [...] introduce a deposit return scheme to incentivise people to recycle plastic and glass.”
Our Great British Beach Clean has found glass items consistently in the top 10 litter items in England since 2001 - in 2022 it was the third top litter item found.
In January 2023, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow announced the Government's plans for Deposit Return Schemes covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland, set to be introduced in 2025.
Glass bottles will not be captured by DRS in Northern Ireland. Glass drinks bottles will be covered by the Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging scheme, which will place targets on producers in relation to glass recycling.
Scotland was the first nation in the UK to commit to a DRS, which will include PET plastic bottles, glass bottles and steel/aluminium drinks cans.
Prices for drinks in these types of containers will include a deposit of 20p per bottle or can, which will be fully refunded when returned for recycling.
The scheme is due to be implemented in August 2023 and the Scottish Government aims to have a 90% return rate within the first three years. It’s a big step towards Scotland having a circular economy.
Alongside the announcement for England, the Welsh Government also revealed their plans to introduce a DRS by 2025. The scheme would allow consumers to return plastic bottles and lids, aluminium cans, and glass drinks containers.
Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society said: “It’s great to see steps being taken toward the implementation of Deposit Return Schemes across England and Wales. Our data consistently shows the need for Schemes that encompass all drinks-related litter, including glass.
“What’s more, we know schemes like this work. Following the introduction of charges on single-use plastic carrier bags we saw a massive decrease in bags on beaches.
Deposit Return Schemes across the UK have the potential to really turn the tide on the pollution our volunteers are finding on beaches.Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society