Minister admits DRS is likely to take three more years

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Environment secretary Steve Barclay has admitted that the government’s plan to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) next year is no longer “realistic”.

He told MPs that it was “more likely” to take until 2027 for the long-awaited initiative to materialise.

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The government said in January that retailers would need to set up reverse vending machines to take aluminium and steel drinks cans and PET bottles in England and Northern Ireland by 1 October 2025. The devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland planned to include glass in their schemes too.

However, the British Retail Consortium called for the “costly” initiative to be held back until other waste policies were in place, and speculation grew that it could be delayed.

In contrast, organisations as diverse as Coca-Cola and Greenpeace recently signed a letter to resources minister Robbie Moore saying it was “essential” the initiative was running by October this year.

Asked by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee last week whether the UK government would “encourage the Welsh to become more interoperable” [by removing glass from their scheme], Barclay simply replied: “Yes.”

He added: “Given the balance between the benefits of the scheme versus the benefits of having something interoperable, I don’t think 2025 is now realistic, and certainly I don’t think business would view it as a realistic deadline.

“It is an issue that is still an ongoing area of discussion within government, but I suspect, if I was pushed on it, that a 2027 deadline is probably more likely.”