Legislation - Digital Deposit Return Schemes

Polytag teamDec 6, 20217 min read

Digital Deposit Return Schemes

Technology is now available to enable a kerbside, Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) – a credible alternative to traditional reverse vending machine systems.

Digitally-enabled deposit return schemes are more convenient for consumers, preferred by retailers, lower cost and less carbon intensive, as well as being able to leverage existing local authority collection methods.

They also provide the added value of delivering accurate data collection and analytics throughout the circular packaging economy.

What is a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)?

We are pleased that recycling/recovery rates for drinks containers have increased over the years, but there is still room for improvement.

A Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) puts a small charge on the cost of an item of packaging which is returned to a customer when the item is recycled via a dedicated recycling scheme. This ‘deposit’ acts as an incentive to support recycling as it encourages a consumer to return the empty container.

Retailers selling in-scope containers will add the deposit to the purchase of the item. Although the range of in-scope containers varies around the world, many governments are proposing that PET bottles, steel and aluminium cans and glass bottles will be part of the scheme.

The main aims of a DRS

Through a deposit return scheme, governments want to increase the recycling rate of drinks containers and reduce littering. Introducing these schemes will change consumer behaviour to encourage higher levels of drinks container recycling.

  • Increase recycling rates for in-scope containers
  • Increase the quality of recycling to encourage closed loop recycling
  • Reduce litter
  • Support the drive to become net zero by 2050

The future should be digital

A Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) is an inclusive technology solution. It leverages existing kerbside collection infrastructure and does not require consumers to change their current habits. Households can reclaim their deposit conveniently without leaving their home.

Polytag is at the heart of this movement, developing solutions that make DRS systems even more attractive and convenient for consumers both at home and ‘away from home’.

Polytag technology uses serialised tags on packaging, linked to scanning of containers via a smartphone app, which allows consumers to scan items themselves to redeem their deposit. A far more convenient way to return items into the recycling stream.

  • Flexible return points generating consumer convenience
  • Integration into the kerbside collections system allows deposits to be redeemed at home, using existing infrastructure
  • Reduced volume of beverage containers needing collection via retailer
  • Fraud prevention
  • Lower implementation and running costs

This technology is developing rapidly in response to interest from across the industry value chain, including the retail sector and the packaging producers.

Digital Deposit Return Scheme in action

Download the results of our highly successful pilot that ran in North Wales during the summer of 2021. We achieved a 97% engagement rate and 9 in 10 households scanning 4 out of a possible 6 bottles,. This demonstrates that Digital Deposit Return Schemes can be highly effective.

The benefits to consumers

  • Rewarded for recycling
  • Convenient depositing of containers in household recycling
  • Easy to use apps that requires scanning one code to receive deposit

The benefits to businesses

  • Streamlined recycling collection using existing infrastructure
  • Cost-efficient and less carbon-intensive to produce and install than reverse vending machines
  • Less physical space is taken up on retailers’ shopfloors

DDRS will benefit the environment

It is not just about convenience though. During our Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) pilot in North Wales, we used data from a report published by the Irish Waste Management Association to compare carbon emissions associated with conventional DRS to those likely to result from a kerbside-based, DDRS.

As a result, it was estimated that in Wales alone, the net benefit in terms of carbon emissions derived from adopting kerbside DRS would be approximately 13,000tCO2e per annum (equivalent to burning 6,500t of coal each year).

This net reduction in carbon emissions from kerbside DRS is predominantly achieved through:

  • No need for households to make individual trips to collection points (estimated at 8,000 tCO2e)
  • No additional infrastructure required for reverse vending machine manufacture, system setup and installation (estimated at 4,000 tCO2e)
  • No additional transport to take collected material to Material Recycling Facilities (estimated at 1,000 tCO2e)

If we extrapolate this net reduction of carbon emissions over the next 29 years – to the Net Zero target date of 2050 – then the introduction of a kerbside DRS could save up to 377,000 tCO2e.

The 11 advantages of a Digital Deposit Return Scheme

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you implement a Digital Deposit Return Scheme