DEFRA announces deposit return scheme to start in October 2025

GS1 UK CEO Anne Godfrey shares our thoughts on what this means for consumers and businesses in the UK.

DEFRA announces deposit return scheme to start in October 2025

GS1 UK is pleased to see the DEFRA response to the deposit return scheme (DRS) consultation has been published. We are concerned, however, that the UK appears to be heading towards a fragmented model. We know how effective DRS models can be in addressing key societal issues and welcome plans for rolling them out across the four nations, but the proposed approach risks adding unnecessary cost and complexity for businesses and consumers alike, that could be mitigated.

We have been calling for a harmonised approach that creates clarity and consistency for all involved. Dealing with legislative changes that are implemented differently in one country before another presents a major challenge for UK businesses and, in the context of DRS, risks hampering cross-border trade, limits consumer choice and creates additional barriers to smaller brands. This potentially fragmented model lacks the flexibility to adapt to future expansion to support EPR or other sustainability programmes. Above all else we need a proposal that is flexible and will be a foundation that can evolve over time.

Both consumers and businesses will be faced with a DRS postcode lottery, one in which where you live, or trade, will determine the extent to which you are able to participate. This will not deliver the simplicity, convenience and ease-of-use that is so greatly needed to make DRS a success and does little to address the complexity of existing recycling systems which, according to our research, over a third of consumers already find unnecessarily complicated.

The implementation of DRS is a complex issue that requires a strategy that extends beyond immediate timelines and challenges in order to evolve for the longer term. Since the initial consultation was issued, we have had the opportunity to learn from work done in other countries, the myriad of pilots that have been completed in the UK and specific research.

The window for finding an effective solution is rapidly closing. We urge the government to bring together all affected parties, to come together and work towards an aligned approach. Together, we have a real opportunity to radically boost recycling rates across the UK but, only through a shared level of focus and collaboration can this be achieved.

Anne Godfrey

Anne Godfrey


Opinion piece