Barclay suggests further delay to flagship recycling scheme from 2025 to 2027

Launching the Government’s flagship recycling scheme in 2025 is not realistic, Steve Barclay has said.

The Environment Secretary told MPs on Tuesday that a 2027 deadline for introducing the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is “probably more likely”.

The scheme, which would see consumers recoup a small deposit when they return single-use bottles and cans, has been in development in the Environment Department (Defra) since 2017 and was part of the 2019 Tory manifesto.

However, its anticipated launch date has already been delayed from late 2024 to October 2025, after the scheme faced heavy criticism from some in the drinks industry.

Discrepancies between devolved administrations over whether glass bottles would be included have also complicated the roll-out.

Speaking to the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs Committee, Mr Barclay said the Government has been working with industries as well as the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments to develop an aligned scheme.

“Given this balance between the benefits of the scheme versus the benefits of having something interoperable, I don’t think 2025 is now realistic and certainly I don’t think business would view it as a realistic deadline,” he said.

“But I suspect if I was pushed on it, a sort of 2027 deadline is probably more likely.”

Mr Barclay said the issue is ongoing and continues to be an area of discussion within the Government.

“I’m not in a position to give a date on it, but certainly 2025 I don’t think is realistic,” he added.

Asked when the Government may lay the secondary legislation for the scheme, Mr Barclay also said: “I’m not in a position to give an exact date today because I think as a Unionist, one of the things that has been very important to me is that we have an approach that is interoperable across the UK.

“And it is, therefore, right that we work closely with the DAs (devolved administrations) to have a scheme that aligns, and I think also that’s important to business as well because I think it’d be hugely frustrating to business if we have different schemes in different parts of the United Kingdom.”

He added that 55% of litter falls within the scope of the DRS as “high-quality product that can be recycled”.

“The importance of policy is there and that’s why we’ve been working so closely with the DAs on it,” he said.

It comes after the Scottish and Welsh governments had plans for their respective schemes to include glass.

But under UK Government plans, the schemes in England and Northern Ireland would have excluded glass due to the additional challenges that come with recycling the material.

Environmental campaigners and companies such as Coca-Cola have criticised the delays to the scheme and have been calling on the Government to lay the legislation that can enact the scheme under the Environment Act as soon as possible.