Polytag’s CEO responds to Society of Independent Brewers’s Letter to the Welsh Government

Polytag teamJan 12, 20237 min read

Polytag’s CEO responds to Society of Independent Brewers’s Letter to the Welsh Government

Dear Buster Grant, Emma McClarkin, Miles Beale, Dave Dalton, Kate Nicholls and Bob Price,

I read with interest your joint letter to Julie James MS, the Minister for Climate Change, prior to Christmas, regarding the publication of the forthcoming Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) consultation.

Your collective view that the UK embraces an aligned approach to delivering a DRS echoes our own belief. A unified system will be in the best interests of all stakeholders – government, recyclers, retailers, brands, the leisure sector and consumers.

As we near the consultation release date – expected to be 20 January – frustratingly, there are a number of aspects of the legislation that remain unclear, such as which materials will be in-scope, issues surrounding cross-border fraud, ownership of the recycled material, and much more.

At Polytag, we have spent the last four years developing a solution that will deliver an effective digital DRS. However, while we believe technology should have a key role in the deployment of a DRS, we have consistently stated that the UK, at this stage, would benefit from a hybrid system that harnesses the power of digital technology and Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs).

In 2021, our Welsh Government-led Conwy Digital DRS pilot concluded that kerbside Digital DRS has the potential to help Wales deliver on its Zero Waste targets while also cutting carbon emissions through high-quality recycling. It also affirmed that our technology was compatible with existing household recycling processes and was seen by residents as preferable to returning containers to shops.

Since then, we have gone on to run trials with Ocado and Co-op, utilising our unique-every-time QR code technology, and are on the cusp of announcing an exciting new partnership with one of the country’s leading household waste management companies that will deliver full transparency and traceability through the recycling process.

As an approved partner of GS1 UK, we meet the organisation’s standards which ensures that our technology is interoperable. This will reduce the risk of fraud as our unique-every-time QR codes can be redeemed across the UK. By working on an individual container basis, the potential for fraudulently claimed deposits is much less.

We must look no further than Scotland when identifying the risks of a solely RVM model, which has been blighted by legal challenges from retailers and brands, centred around the cost of machines and their maintenance. But convenience is also a huge factor. For a DRS to deliver its aim of improving recycling rates, it needs to be convenient. A hybrid model will mean households and businesses can dispose of bottles without the need for any capital expenditure.

Of course, the debate around DRS is not limited to RVM vs digital models. The materials that will be in scope are also a major concern, particularly to the leisure and hospitality industries. There certainly needs to be alignment across the nations about whether glass is included in the scheme. While the material already has excellent recycling rates, we are working with our partners to develop ways to include our unique-every-time QR codes on bottles, without impacting any production processes – something we have proven with plastic bottles already. This will mean there is an effective solution, should glass be included in a DRS.

We recognise that there are many challenges to overcome in delivering an effective DRS in the UK, and we are grateful to groups like yours for highlighting the importance of an aligned system. Our Digital DRS technology is ready and proven to work, and will help alleviate many of the concerns around the deployment of a scheme, including providing fraud prevention, reducing capital costs and minimising carbon emissions. Not only that, it will also provide a future-proof system that will enable the tracing of packaging through the circular economy.

We would welcome the chance to demonstrate our technology to you at our facility in North Wales. If you are interested in taking part in a demonstration, please do get in touch with me.

Yours sincerely,

Alice Rackley, CEO, Polytag