Supermarkets push government to delay DRS again

DRS is due to officially start date in October 2025, with the timeline stating the legislation for the policy should be drafted before the end of 2023

drs delays deposit return scheme

The UK’s deposit return scheme (DRS) faces yet another delay as supermarket bosses were said to have successfully pushed the government to consider postponing the start date until at least 2026.

The official start date is October 2025, with the timeline stating the legislation for the policy should be drafted before the end of 2023.

However, The Grocer reported that government officials and the industry agreed the current startdate was “a non-starter”.

Fed national vicepresident Mo Razzaq responded: “If the DRS is indeed delayed, it is perhaps not the worst thing that can happen. After the disappointing end to the Scottish government scheme, we need to have a properly planned one that truly works when it comes into contact with the real world.

“The new scheme will get off the ground quicker if we accept soon that we need a standard scheme for the whole of the UK, and one organisation running it.

“Right now, we’re spending endless time in talks trying to work out the impossible – how the different practices in each part of the UK can work seamlessly together.”

The potential delay to the UK’s DRS would leave the policy fraught with added risks, including a UK general election and a Scottish general election likely to be underway around the time details of the scheme are still being decided.

Suppliers left millions of pounds out of pocket following the collapse of Scotland’s DRS administrator are also said to be demanding guarantees and extra government support in the setting up of the UK’s deposit management organisation, further complicating efforts to get the policy across the line by 2025.

DRS: taking to the streets

Proposals allowing stores to place bottle return machines on the pavement outside their stores would help smaller shops compete for footfall with larger chains, the Fed suggested.

The Scottish government is considering planning regulation changes that would give stores a permitted development right (PDR) to install DRS machines outside their shop, even if they protrude onto the pavement.

Under current laws in Scotland, only ‘hole in the wall’ DRS machines, like ATMs, can face onto the pavement, and only if they are more than five metres from a road.

For anything else, stores face the red tape of achieving planning permission.

The proposed changes would allow stores to put DRS machines outside their stores as long as they are 400 metres from another on-street DRS machine, less than 2.5 metres in width or depth, less than two metres in height, leave at least 1.5 metres of pavement width free, are accessible from people using the footpath, have the consent of the local authority under the Roads Scotland Act and the machine does not advertise any other services.

While this consultation only affects Scotland, all devolved UK governments have been told to amend permitted development rights for DRS machines in preparation for the start of the scheme.

Responding to the enquiry, the Fed urged for the change to go ahead, stating it would remove one of the major barriers for small stores in taking part in DRS – finding space for a machine on the shopfloor.

The statement from the trade group explained: “Retailers unable to find room in the shop and with no nearby alternative locations, such as a parking area, are likely to resort to taking ‘empties’ over the counter.

“This is a more labour-intensive and less hygienic option, which may be inconvenient for retailers and customers.

“Additionally this practice may lead to consumers going to large shops and supermarkets with RVMs, a development that encourages more purchases there.

“Retailers are concerned this development could have an impact on their already fragile businesses on the high street.”

The opening up of space outside the shop for the machines could enable more Scottish stores to opt for machine-based returns once DRS is introduced in Scotland alongside the rest of the UK, ostensibly in 2025.

However, the Fed warned that government funding would be required to help stores meet the initial machine costs.

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