The UK’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers is delayed until October 2027

What is the DRS?

The DRS is designed to encourage people to return drinks containers for recycling and to reduce littering. The scheme will require that a small refundable deposit is added to the price of drinks sold across the UK in plastic bottles and cans. The deposit will be refunded when empty containers are returned to designated collection points.

The DRS will apply to drinks containers between 150ml and 3l which are produced in volumes of 5000 units or more and made from:

  • polyethylene terephthalate (PET);
  • steel; and
  • aluminium

Details for glass containers will be set out separately.

Whilst each country will introduce its own laws to implement DRS, the plan is that a single system will used for registration and reporting across the UK, with a consistent process for consumers to return empty drinks containers to retailers.

N.B. Scotland introduced The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020, these will be amended, and Scotland’s scheme will be established alongside the rest of the UK.

What is the timeline for implementation?

The UK, Welsh and Scottish governments as well as the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland have announced a revised timeline to launch the scheme from October 2027:

  • Phase 1, by spring 2025.
    • Implementation of regulations to support the scheme.
    • Appointment of Deposit Management Organisations (DMOs)*.
  • Phase 2, spring 2025 to spring 2026.
    • DMO(s) set up.
  • Phase 3, spring 2026 – autumn 2027.
    • Set up of infrastructure, return point locations.
    • Producers to develop labelling and prepare for data collection.
  • Launch, October 2027.

* A DMO will be responsible for coordinating and operating the DRS, each country will require a DMO, but this may be the same organisation.

N.B. Drinks containers will be excluded from the packaging extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme provided that the DRS is established by 1st January 2028.

What do I need to do?

The DRS will require action from drinks manufacturers and retailers across the UK, but the details will not be fully known until new regulations are implemented.

The anticipated requirements for organisations include the following.

  • Producers of in-scope drinks containers will need to ensure that the DRS logo and labelling is added to containers covered by the scheme. They will also need to accept the return of drinks containers unless arranged through a DMO.
  • Supermarkets and convenience stores across the UK will need to have a return point for drinks containers as soon as the scheme launches.
  • Other organisations who sell drinks in containers, such as hospitality venues, sports centres and mobile caterers won’t need to set up a return point but can set up a voluntary return point.

We will be adding the new regulations to the Legislation Update Service as soon as they’re published over the next 12 months.

The joint policy paper published at the end of April by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is available online here.