Kids using the Tomra B5 reverse vending machine

A new poll led by global reverse vending leader, TOMRA Collection, and conducted by The Diffley Partnership in conjunction with Survation, has revealed strong public support for the introduction of deposit return schemes across the UK.  

The UK Government has committed to implementing a return to retail deposit return scheme across the UK in October 2027. The devolved governments have made the same commitment and this will ensure an aligned scheme across the UK. According to the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, across the UK, consumers purchase an estimated 31 billion single-use drinks containers each year – 12 billion plastic drinks bottles, 14 billion drinks cans, and five billion glass bottles the current collection rates are between 70% to 75%, and a significant amount of these containers end up littered or in landfill.

Deposit return schemes are already established in many countries where they are helping to reduce litter and improve recycling rates. The polling showed that 75% of those surveyed across the UK said they support the introduction of the deposit return scheme. It also found that:

  • Nine in 10 would use a DRS to return empty beverage containers. 60% believe a single DRS running across the UK would be most effective.
  • More than eight out of 10 people (85%) say that litter is a problem in their area.
  • 81% have already made changes to their lifestyle to help tackle climate change – with two-thirds (66%) worried about the impact of climate change.

The survey, conducted between March 26th and April 2nd, 2024, involved interviewing a representative sample of 2,042 respondents aged 18 and above.

The statistics have been revealed just months after Ireland introduced its DRS, on February 1st. Since then, over 20 million plastic bottles and cans have been successfully collected, according to Re-turn, the Irish scheme operator. This significant milestone has a tangible impact on the environment in Ireland, ensuring containers are redirected to recycling, rather than ending up in streets, rivers, oceans, or landfills. 

The UK government and the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed to align on the key elements of DRS such as a uniform level of deposit, labelling and a single point of registration for producers and retailers.

John Lee, vice president public affairs UK and Ireland, TOMRA, said: 

“Public opinion and environmental concerns strongly support the deposit return scheme, signaling a widespread demand for action. As we face issues like litter, climate change, and sustainability, it’s obvious that we need significant changes now. By working together, we can transform numbers into real solutions and create enduring change.”

Mhairi McFarlane, research manager, Diffley Partnership, said:

“It is clear that environmental concerns are on the public’s minds, with more than two-thirds reporting they are worried about the impact of climate change, and that the vast majority view litter as a problem across the UK.  In that context, it is perhaps unsurprising that three-quarters of people support a Deposit Return Scheme and 90% would use such a scheme at least sometimes.”