Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Closes 4 Jun 2021

Opened 24 Mar 2021


Moving towards a more circular economy, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible and waste is minimised, and ensuring the UK is a world leader in resource efficiency and resource productivity is a priority for Government[1]. Across the UK, consumers go through an estimated 14 billion plastic drinks bottles, 9 billion drinks cans and 5 billion glass bottles a year. The UK Government for England, the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland have all made commitments to develop policy which work towards achieving these aims, not least through the development of producer responsibility proposals. Introducing a deposit return scheme forms a key part of these proposals, and has been committed to in various publications by the UK Government for England, the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, including the manifesto on which the current UK Government was elected, the Resources and Waste Strategy for England, the Welsh Government’s Beyond Recycling, A strategy to make a circular economy in Wales a reality, and Northern Ireland’s Waste Prevention Plan.

In 2019, Defra launched the consultation on Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, in conjunction with the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland. This consultation set out the aims of introducing a deposit return scheme, which would be to reduce the amount of littering, boost recycling levels for relevant material, offer the enhanced possibility to collect high quality materials in greater quantities and promote recycling through clear labelling and consumer messaging. Additionally, introducing a deposit return scheme could help incentivise moves to push more material up the waste hierarchy and move towards a more circular economy.

The consultation was met with support for the introduction of a scheme. In response to the 2019 consultation, noting the high level of public and stakeholder interest in introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, Government committed to continuing to develop proposals and stated that it was minded to implement a scheme from 2023, subject to further evidence and analysis on the costs and benefits of such a scheme. Scotland have already set out their own plans to implement a deposit return scheme and we recognise there is support for coherent schemes across the United Kingdom.    

Government remains committed to delivering on its commitments to introduce a deposit return scheme, but it also recognises that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the economy and society in unimaginable ways, with many people  reassessing their values, decisions and priorities in both the immediate and longer term. On this basis, our second consultation will build on the first consultation, offering a chance to explore further what the continued appetite is for a deposit return scheme in a ‘post-Covid’ context. The second consultation will also inform how a future scheme can be designed in the best and most coherent way possible to deliver on the objectives set out for introducing such a policy.

With this in mind, we have had to reassess what a realistic timeline for implementation of a deposit return scheme looks like, ensuring that sufficient time is given for a successful roll-out of the scheme. We therefore anticipate that the introduction of a deposit return scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be in late 2024 at the earliest. We believe this revision presents a realistic yet equally ambitious timeline to implement a complex but incredibly important policy in the most effective way possible. The timelines for implementation are further explored in Chapter 9. We also recognise that the deposit return scheme proposals are interconnected with the other waste reforms and the introduction of the Plastic Packaging Tax[2], and we will continue to assess the changes to timelines for delivery of these reforms.


[1] Unless otherwise stated “Government” refers to the UK Government for England, the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland.


Why we are consulting

Other consultations taking place

Respondents should also be aware that we are consulting for a second time on another adjacent policy proposal as part of the waste reforms: Introducing Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging across the UK (referred to as extended producer responsibility in this consultation). This consultation sets out plans to reform the existing UK packaging producer responsibility system that will see extended producer responsibility for packaging established. This will require producers to meet the costs of managing packaging waste and support existing and improved packaging waste collection services for households and businesses UK wide. A link to the consultation on Introducing Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging across the UK the can be found below.

As the waste reform proposals form a package of measures the consultations are being run in parallel to give respondents the opportunity to consider the proposals together. We encourage you to look at the other consultation as you consider your response to this consultation. We also encourage you to respond to the other consultation. 

Responding to the consultation

Please respond to this consultation in one of the following ways:

Online using the Citizen Space consultation hub at Defra

For ease of analysis, responses via the Citizen Space platform would be preferred, but alternative options are provided below if required:

By email:


In writing to: 


Consultation Coordinator, Defra

2nd Floor, Foss House, Kings Pool

1-2 Peasholme Green




This consultation will run for 10 weeks. This is in line with the Cabinet Office’s ‘Consultation Principles’ which advises Government departments to adopt proportionate consultation procedures. The consultation opens on 24th March 2021. The consultation closes on 4 June 2021.

Please note, any responses sent by post must have arrived at the above address by the closing date of the consultation (4th June 2021) to be counted. Unfortunately, any responses received after this date will not be analysed. To ensure your response is included in the analysis, please consider responding online via Citizen Space.

After the consultation

Defra has contracted the Office of Public Management Ltd, trading as Traverse, to support the analysis of responses to this consultation. Traverse will treat personal data they receive and analyse as confidential and will only have access to the response data for the period of the analysis, following which the data will be permanently removed from their system and supplied to Defra. Please find further information in the accompanying Privacy Notice for this consultation.

Give us your views


  • Charities/Voluntary Organisations
  • Environmental campaigners
  • Food Business Operators
  • Food Industry
  • Government Departments
  • Government Agencies
  • Devolved Administrations
  • Local Authorities
  • Consumer Groups
  • Waste Producers and Handlers
  • Local Authorities
  • Producer Compliance Schemes
  • Waste Management Companies
  • Retail Industry
  • Manufacturing Industry
  • Member of the General Public
  • Families
  • SME businesses
  • Trading Standards Officers


  • Green infrastructure
  • Waste and recycling
  • Local environments
  • Pollution Sector