Glass bottles will not be included in the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for England and Northern Ireland, the government has said.

As part of DEFRA’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging consultation summary, the department said some responses raised concerns over glass, in particular the way glass is collected in reverse vending machines, “possibly being crushed and mixed, ultimately resulting in poorer quality glass than is collected currently through kerbside recycling”.

Respondents also highlighted the potential increase in handling costs and equipment complexity that come from collecting glass bottles in a DRS.

Instead, glass drinks bottles will be in scope of EPR, which will place targets on producers in relation to glass recycling and require them to pay for the cost of managing glass packaging generated by households. DEFRA said Northern Ireland will keep under review the inclusion of glass once the DRS is fully operational, to “ensure glass drinks containers are meeting the required recycling targets”.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed the decision to exclude glass.

“Retailers in England and Northern Ireland will be relieved that they won’t have to handle the return of glass drinks containers as part of a Deposit Return Scheme,” said ACS chief executive James Lowman. “All of the operational problems related to a Deposit Return Scheme – colleague safety, storage, handling heavy waste and breakages – are made much more acute by the inclusion of glass.”

However, Lowman expressed disappointed that “retailers in Wales and Scotland will have to face into these problems and bear the significant financial and operational costs of doing so”.

“Furthermore, having different packaging types included in different parts of the UK will be a nightmare for wholesalers and producers who will have to make, store and distribute two versions of many products,” he added. “We hope that policy-makers in Wales and especially in Scotland, where the scheme is due to come into effect in just over a year’s time, will reconsider the impact of including glass in the scheme.”

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said the trade group had fought from the start for the exlusion of glass from the scheme. 

“We are pleased that DEFRA has listened to industry concerns about the inclusion of glass and has announced that glass containers will not be part of any future DRS scheme in England or Northern Ireland.  From the outset, the WSTA has argued – often as a lone voice – that the best way to increase glass recycling rates is to improve kerbside collection, rather than introduce a completely new regime. 

“There are fundamental challenges to with including glass within DRS, such as the collection process, increased emissions, handling costs, equipment complexity, loss of storage space for retailers, reduced quality of clear glass, as well as health and safety concerns. DEFRA has listened and should be congratulated for recognising and taking on board those concerns.”  

Beale also expressed disappointment that not all nations of the UK will share the same rules. 

“The consequence of Scotland and Wales taking different approaches will make it harder for businesses to trade across the UK,” he added. “Currently it looks very likely that the UK will see the introduction of three different DRS systems, each requiring different labels, stock separation and far greater administration. This will inevitably mean increased costs for producers and consumers and potentially reduced consumer choice.”