DRS delay disappointing, but far from unexpected, says Alupro

Last week (25 April), the UK government published a statement confirming a delay to the introduction of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers to October 2027.

Alongside the delay, DEFRA revealed that decisions had been reached regarding joint registration and reporting, labelling, reciprocal returns, deposit level, minimum container size, and low volume sales. In addition, they reiterated that glass drink containers would be excluded from the scheme in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, on the grounds of ‘undue complexity’ and ‘handling costs’.

Commenting on the announcement, Tom Giddings, executive director of Alupro, said: “Given the recent lack of progress, the long lead time needed for implementation and rumours of a delay circulating for a number of months now, today’s announcement is far from a surprise. However, with the policy first announced in 2018 and two consultations subsequently held in 2019 and 2021, it’s hugely disappointing that the scheme will have taken almost a decade since its inception to come to fruition.

“Developed with the ambition of further driving recycling rates, as well as reducing litter and plastic pollution, a well-designed DRS provides a once in a generation opportunity to revolutionise the circular economy of drinks containers. We have always wholeheartedly supported its implementation, with a number of important caveats, as outlined within our aluminium manifesto.

“It’s frustrating to hear that the Government is putting its head in the sand when it comes to embracing an all-in scheme and supporting a fair and level playing field for all competing materials. Reversing this decision is probably somewhat of a foregone conclusion, however, even if excluded from the scheme, glass beverage containers should still be subject to equal collection and recycling targets under the EPR system.

“But material inclusion is just one of several decisions that still need clarifying. Now that the 2027 go live date has been confirmed, the Government must immediately turn its attention to ensuring that proactive decisions are made to ensure the scheme delivers the best possible long-term results.

“Firstly, it’s imperative that the DRS should embrace a variable rate deposit, supported by a maximum deposit level that allows flexibility. This is critical to prevent imbalance in the market for beverage containers sold in multipacks. We’ve seen such a system implemented just this year in the Republic of Ireland to great success.

“Secondly, it’s vital that the DRS is seen as a circular economy scheme, not an anti-litter one. Collected material should be accessible and available to the recyclers of aluminium packaging, as it is now. This means that, once collected, the scheme can facilitate the supply of new recycled beverage containers – such as aluminium cans.

“Finally, the scheme must recognise the role aluminium’s high value plays in funding the collection of aluminium cans in a DRS and use this to offset the costs for obligated can-using businesses only.

“While the process we’re currently going through has been thwarted with delays and change, we should not focus entirely on the negatives. Despite frustrations, the introduction of the scheme should be seen as a positive and, as an industry, we need work hard to maximise its long-term impact.

“Ensuring legislation is robust and delivers the maximum possible impact is pivotal. The government must therefore make big and well-informed decisions to create a dependable system for the future. After all, to achieve an effective DRS, we need to work collaboratively. Doing so is essential if we are to roll out a scheme that improves recycling rates and reduces litter, while also creating a system that works and sets the international standards for success.”

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Local schoolchildren treated to interactive recycling workshop

Earlier this month (March), KS2 pupils from Thomas Russell Junior School in Burton-on-Trent were treated to an interactive aluminium recycling workshop, after student Elsie Burgess (8) took home first place in a national competition.

Organised by the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro), the competition saw thousands of primary pupils from all over the UK tasked with designing the graphics for a brand new recycling bin. According to the judges, Elsie’s winning entry brought passion and creativity to the challenge of increasing recycling rates.

As her prize, Elsie’s design has been created and delivered to her school. In addition, her classmates were also treated to a hands-on recycling workshop run by social enterprise Casting Innovations.

Demonstrating the aluminium recycling process in a safe and controlled environment, the workshop saw drink cans melted down and cast into moulds. Each pupil took home a recycled keyring to remind them about the importance of recycling.

Claire Boot, education officer at Alupro, commented: “Educating the next generation is an important part of our work here at the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation and we’re delighted to see the continued impact of the Masters of Infinity programme. We were so impressed with this year’s entries, but Elsie’s design really stood out.”

Mrs Kerr-Delworth, teacher at Thomas Russell Junior School, added: “I came across the Masters of Infinity resources when I was looking for a project for my Climate Changers – an inspirational bunch of year 6 pupils who are passionate about their role in looking after our planet – and was immediately drawn to it.

“The resources are brilliant as they have child-friendly graphics and a theme – beat LandPhil – but the language and facts behind this don’t talk down to children and are incredibly informative and engaging. The Climate Changers led an assembly to introduce the rest of the school to the resources and the competition but next time we will be incorporating the work into our PSHE curriculum time to really do it justice. What a find!”

For more information about our educational resources, visit www.learningaluminium.co.uk.