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Wales ‘intent’ on including glass in DRS

The Welsh government has said it “intends to bring forward” a deposit return scheme (DRS) which includes glass, despite Westminster blocking the inclusion of the material in Scotland. 

The move is part of Wales' strategy to build a greener and more sustainable economy

Scotland had planned to have a DRS which includes glass operational next year but pushed its system back to October 2025, in line with the rest of the UK, after the UK government blocked the inclusion of glass (see letsrecycle.com story).

This lead to question marks over the system in Wales, as the country has pencilled in a DRS for October 2025 with glass included.

A spokesperson for the Welsh government however said: “[We] intend to bring forward a Deposit Return Scheme which includes glass in Wales in 2025, as the Minister announced in January”.

‘Consistent’

The Welsh government explained that the scope of the scheme in Wales “remains consistent” with that which was jointly consulted upon with the UK Government in 2019 and 2021 and includes PET plastic, glass, steel and aluminium drink containers.

“Whilst we respect the decision the UK Government made for England [to remove glass] it should not in any way limit the ability of the Welsh Government to continue to implement a scheme in Wales which is consistent with the scope set out in the 2021 consultation, has widespread public support, reflects that the vast majority of overseas DRSs include glass bottles and is best able to support the achievement of environmental outcomes, including tackling littering, and the need to de-carbonise our economy,” the spokesperson added.

We do not recognise that the UK Internal Market Act limits the ability of Welsh Government

  • Welsh government

Internal markets

One potential hurdle for the Welsh government to overcome is the Internal Markets Act. Led by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the act introduces a new market access regime, which means that goods sold in one part of the UK are automatically accepted across all other parts of the UK, regardless of the rules there.

However, the spokesperson dismissed fears the Welsh DRS could be blocked, saying: “The Welsh Government has not sought an exclusion from the UK Internal Market Act and we do not recognise that the UK Internal Market Act limits the ability of Welsh Government to legislate in areas of devolved competence. The implementation of a DRS is fully devolved to Welsh Ministers and the ability for devolved administrations to have, as a minimum, the flexibility we had prior to EU-exit to tailor approaches to our respective circumstances is enshrined in the principles governing Common Frameworks.”

The UK government granted Scotland an exemption from the Act for its DRS, allowing the scheme to launch a year earlier north of the border than the rest of the UK, but said it can not include glass, reasoning that the “interoperability of schemes is critical to avoiding unnecessary barriers to trade” (see letsrecycle.com story).

Wales and Scotland are the only two UK nations that have been set on including glass in their respective scheme on top of the plastic, aluminium and steel drinks containers to be collected across the UK.

Digital DRS

The inclusion of glass in the DRS has been a controversial issue, with British glass noting that the UK’s current glass collection rate is in the region of 74%. It has also been argued that recycling glass through household collection is more convenient for residents than returning them to a dedicated return point, especially if they’re older or live in rural areas (see letsrecycle.com story).

The Welsh government is also exploring the possibility of a digital DRS. This version of the scheme could help address these concerns as it would see residents scan a barcode on the drinks container before disposing of it in their kerbside recycling, with the deposit fee returned to their digital wallet.

The Welsh government has previously run digital DRS trials in some regions, with some of the results showing 97% participation rate (see letsrecycle.com story).

Wales has the highest recycling rate within the UK, with a rate of 65.2% according to figures published in 2022. It has a target to recycle 70% of its waste by 2024/25.

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