Foodservice Footprint DRS The Friday Digest: Deposit scheme returns … in 2027              Foodservice News and Information  news-story-top news-email-top

The Friday Digest: Deposit scheme returns … in 2027             

Just as we were putting this week’s Digest to bed, the UK government decided to publish a policy paper on its deposit return scheme for drinks containers. “[…] the UK government, Welsh Government, Scottish Government and DAERA have agreed to a revised timeline to launch DRS in October 2027,” it reads. So, just the four years after the initial target date, and two years after the revised one.

Campaigners are peeved while industry is largely pleased with the postponement. UKHospitality for example noted that the government has “listened” to the concerns of industry – the scheme for example will not require hospitality venues to offer return points (though this option can be taken up voluntarily).

The fact that there will be a UK-wide scheme rather than nations going for this alone and on varying timelines makes sense (Scotland’s scheme should have been underway already for example but was upset by political wrangling and the UKIM Act).

The paper (which wasn’t accompanied by a press release) laid out the size of the containers in scope (150ml to 3l) and that ‘low volume products’ – lines with less than 5,000 units placed on the UK market – would be exempt.

However, most of the attention as ever is on the materials in scope. DRS in England and Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland will include drinks containers made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), steel, and aluminium cans. The position on glass containers – which have been a sticking point between devolved nations – will be set out in separate statements issued by each administration.

Robbie Moore, minister for water, said in an update to Parliament that “when our DRS launches, businesses and consumers will be protected by the market access principles of the UKIM [UK Internal Market] Act for the sale of drinks in glass bottles across the UK. In plain terms, this means that drinks in glass containers made or imported into England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will not be subject to a Welsh DRS which includes glass.”

This means beer bottles won’t be part of our DRS, explained Robbie Staniforth, innovation and policy director at compliance scheme Ecosurety, so maybe – maybe? – this could open up the possibility of a return and refill scheme like Germany and others operate with success. So reuse being put ahead of recycling. “Wouldn’t that be something,” Staniforth said, obviously with his glass half full.

This week there were other stories about policy delays and about beer. 

Up first, is this: “Government has no plans at present to introduce a mandatory eco-label, nor to endorse an existing or new eco-labelling scheme.” The statement was made in an update by the Food Data Transparency Partnership, which also seemed to pass the buck for any decisions on mandatory scope 3 emissions reporting to the Department for Business and Trade. 

FDTP said: “Increasing mandatory data disclosure requirements from governments, as well as businesses competing for investment on the basis of sustainability performance, have resulted in a confusing landscape of initiatives, approaches and methodologies competing for attention and a lack of coordinated work to supply the data demanded across the agri-food sector.” 

It’s not quite back to square one, but to say we are much further ahead on all this might be stretching it.

And so to the beer story, and concerns over the impact the changing climate is having on hop production. Many crops are facingincreased stresses as a result of global heating – which this week also led to a Cava producer requesting furlough for staff due to the droughts that have hit grape yields. The move by Freixenet, covered in our separate story, marks a rare move to link staff cuts to climate change.

Substantial changes are likely given the “big stresses” around certain ingredients, noted David Read, chairman at Prestige Purchasing, in an interview with The Grocer. Food companies have engaged in ‘cost engineering’ of recipes on the back of geopolitical impacts, and there will undoubtedly be increasing ‘climate engineering’ of menus and products too, he explained. Businesses will have to be more flexible and innovative, changing recipes and switching ingredients.

Also in this week’s bulletin: a new study shows ultra-processing of some plant-based foods is concerning consumers; and the latest on the plastics treaty talks taking place in Canada.