UK bottle return scheme delayed again
Charlie Bennett
April 25, 2024

A bottle return scheme, one of the government’s flagship schemes for reducing waste, has been delayed by two years. The Times reported the decision means the “deposit return scheme” first floated six years ago will not start operating until 2027 at the earliest.

The new timeline is a fresh delay for a major recycling policy that had already been postponed from 2024 to 2025. Dozens of countries around the world already have such schemes in place, including Germany and Australia. The idea is that consumers pay a higher upfront cost for single use bottles and are then refunded money when they return the bottle to a machine or “takeback” desks in shops – 20p in the case of a Scottish scheme that was due to be introduced last year.

The Scottish plans were postponed amid a row between Westminster and Holyrood, leading to plans for a unified, UK-wide scheme to begin at the “stretching” start date of October 2025. However, that has been delayed to 2027, to allay businesses’ concerns about the costs and practicalities of implementing such a scheme.

Steve Barclay, the environment secretary, recently told MPs that having a scheme that worked across four of the UK nations meant 2025 looked to be an unrealistic target. Shops will be required to host return points for the bottles, and people will have to bring them back with caps or lids attached to receive their money.

The Times understands that only Wales will be including glass in its scheme, though the Scottish government had previously wanted to include glass too. The glass industry had lobbied heavily for excluding glass for the scheme, arguing it would be better to boost how much glass is collected by kerbside recycling from homes. Steel and aluminium bottles will be covered by the scheme.

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