Digital DRS could offer ‘significant’ savings

A group of trade bodies and companies across the drinks containers value chain claim an ‘all-in’ digital deposit return scheme (DRS) would offer “significant” savings compared to using reverse vending machines.

The government plans to introduce a DRS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in late 2024 “at the earliest”

The Digital DRS Industry Working Group commissioned consultancy Resource Futures to produce a report exploring the economic impact of a digital DRS. The report was published on 1 June.

The digital DRS design modelled in the report proposes using existing kerbside recycling collections

An all-in DRS would target a large number of drinks containers placed on the market, irrespective of size.

The digital DRS design modelled in the report proposes using existing kerbside recycling collections, making this the main point for collecting containers and allowing the consumer to redeem their deposit via a smartphone app.

Resource Futures found a digital DRS could reduce implementation costs by £3,344 million over 11 years when compared with an all-in reverse vending machine-based option modelled by Defra.

It also found a digital DRS could provide a ‘benefit-to-cost’ ratio more than twice as good as Defra’s all-in option.

The findings are based on the expectation that a digital DRS would require many fewer reverse vending machines, utilise 28 million collection points which already exist at peoples’ homes, and be supported by a suitable network of ‘away-from-home’ collection points.

The Digital DRS Industry Working Group is administered by Bryson Recycling and includes Alupro, Biffa, British Glass, the British Plastics Federation, the British Retail Consortium, Danone Waters, Diageo, Ocado, and RECOUP.

The group has submitted its report to the government’s consultation on the DRS, which closes tomorrow (4 June) (see letsrecycle.com story).


Eric Randall, spokesperson for the group, said: “The Industry Working Group recognises that there is more work to be done on the feasibility of digital DRS, but the opportunity is clearly there. The significance of the potential high financial savings is notable, and we call on government to support industry in delivering the next stages of technical and social research needed.

“The significance of the potential high financial savings is notable”

Eric Randall

“As importantly, we ask government to ensure that the mechanics of implementation of deposit return currently under development are future-proofed and do not exclude the potential for introduction of digital DRS as a delivery mode for government’s policy objectives.

“In particular, we ask for consideration in the drafting of regulations that will come forward as part of the implementation of the Environment Bill and that the procurement and tendering process for the deposit management organisation also do not exclude the ability to deliver utilising a digital DRS.”


However, Resource Futures’ report acknowledges that further technical and environmental impact research is needed in areas such as the logistical feasibility of the serialised code labelling of cans.

It suggests research into the carbon emissions balance of a digital DRS compared to the government’s current proposals is required.

Further communications research is also needed to understand the public’s preparedness for deposit return better, the report says.

Related links
Digital Deposit Return Scheme – high level economic impact assessment

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