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Cash for plastic recycling scheme delayed to 2027

The Government’s long-awaited bottle returns recycling scheme will be delayed until 2027, ministers have finally confirmed.

As revealed by i, the Conservatives’ flagship deposit returns scheme (DRS), which would enable consumers to recycle plastic bottles and cans in return for cash, has been pushed back yet again, meaning it will not be delivered until nearly a decade after it was first announced.

Ministers have blamed the delays on disagreements between the UK’s devolved administrations, particularly in Scotland, which insisted in being able to include glass in the recycling scheme.

Environment minister Robbie Moore formally announced the decision in a written ministerial statement on Thursday morning, in which he admitted “launching a DRS in October 2025 was a stretching target date”.

“Following extensive engagement with industry, who will be responsible for delivering the DRS, and a review of international approaches to DRS implementation, additional time will be needed to efficiently and effectively roll out the schemes across the UK,” he said, adding: “With the agreement of ministerial colleagues across the devolved administrations, the DRS will go live in October 2027.”

Labour has criticised the decision but is expected to go along with the move, meaning consumers will not be able to receive cash or vouchers for recycling cans and bottles even if there is a change in administration.

The scheme was first officially announced by Michael Gove in 2018 when he was environment secretary under then prime minister Theresa May.

The policy, which would involve small cash deposits or vouchers being given out in exchange for plastic bottles or used cans, has been under development in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for seven years, with an initial consultation process to look at how it could work launched in 2017.

Four prime ministers and six environment secretaries have been in post since the policy was first touted. The UK consumes 13 billion plastic bottles each year and 57 per cent are currently recycled.

An industry source told i back in February this year that the delays were “baffling” when compared to other countries which had introduced similar policies.

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