The British Retail Consortium has called for UK’s deposit return schemes to be aligned across all four nations and delayed until after extended producer responsibility is implemented.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has launched its “Manifesto for Retail” ahead of the general election this year, which calls for policies that support retailers’ investment in net zero technologies.
The BRC recommended the UK government implement “fit for purpose” recycling and waste schemes. In the manifesto, the BRC said deposit return schemes (DRS) should be aligned across all four UK nations and come into force after extended producer responsibility (EPR).
Currently, DRSs are set to begin in October 2025 across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (NI). However, there are some key differences in the in-scope materials for each scheme. The Welsh government plans to include glass in its scheme, while England, Scotland and NI do not.
Last year, the Scottish government were forced to delay its DRS until October 2025 after the UK government declined a request for full exclusion from the Internal Market Act. This meant glass couldn’t be included in the scheme despite the SNP’s desire to do so.
The manifesto lays out the BRC’s vision for a better retail future where it is a “net zero, digitally transformed” industry that provides higher-skilled, better-paid jobs and an improved shopping experience for customers.
The BRC suggests three fixes to make to make this a reality:
- A more coordinated approach to tax and regulation.
- Evolve skills policy so industry can train its workforce for new roles.
- Policies that support retailers’ investment in the technology needed to achieve net zero and a circular economy.
The manifesto also called for the government to ringfence EPR funds for investment in new recycling infrastructure to “increase recycling rates and the volume of quality materials for reuse and recycling”.
The BRC’s manifesto recommended the government create incentives to support retailers make reuse and refill “more mainstream”. One example in the manifesto is for the government to apply zero-rate VAT on the sale of recycled, refurbished and repaired products.
The manifesto’s policy recommendations also called for “sensible timeframes” for policy development and implementation that give retailers time to prepare.
The BRC is critical of the government’s planned reforms in its manifesto. It said that currently EPR for packaging, DRS for drink containers, and waste electrical reforms (WEEE), “lack the efficacy” to move the UK to a circular economy and will fail to deliver value for money.
As political parties gear up for the next election, we need a different way of working with government.
The manifesto accused the UK government of a lack of “strategic foresight when planning and sequencing” new regulations and reforms. It said this means the UK does not have the right infrastructure needed to increase recycling rates.
The manifesto also recommended the government should implement policies to ensure household waste collections are consistent across local authorities alongside rather than after EPR to ensure the “supply of material available for recycling meets growing demand”.
Commenting on the manifesto, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “As political parties gear up for the next election, we need a different way of working with government so that we can use the industry’s size, scale and reach to deliver more.
“That means removing the blockages which hold the industry back, preventing it reaching its full potential. It’s time to support the upskilling of workers and accelerate our journey to net zero while finding ways to address any unnecessary burdens on the industry and its sixty million customers.”
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