Small stores would likely participate in a Deposit Return Scheme for used beverage containers in order to drive footfall, if they are legally exempt from the proposed UK system, according to experts citing overseas evidence.

The UK government has proposed DRS for single-use drinks containers in its new waste strategy, with a consultation expected to be published this month. Scotland is close to implementing its own scheme, following a consultation which closed in September 2018.

In Lithuania, which implemented a DRS system in 2016, urban stores under 300sq m (circa 3,200sq ft) in size and rural stores under 60sq m (650sq ft) are exempt from participating, but most have signed up to remain competitive, according to Saulius Galadauskas, chair of the Lithuanian DRS and head of the Lithuanian Brewers Association.

“Retailers lose business without it. If there are two stores on a street and only one is participating in DRS, people will go to that one, or if it’s the only shop on the street they’ll go to the supermarket in the next town,” he said.

Consumers pay a deposit of €0.10 when purchasing eligible drink containers (glass, non-refillable plastic and metal), to be refunded when the empty container is returned for recycling.

Galadauskas said consumer satisfaction with the Lithuanian scheme stood at 93%, while 97% believed a DRS system is necessary. By the end of 2017 approximately 92% of all beverage containers on the Lithuanian market were returned for recycling.

Small stores in Lithuania generally collect used containers manually, but 90% of stores have reverse vending machines (RVMs). In rural areas RVMs can be provided on the street in kiosks when retailers request assistance.

He added that DRS makes the market “completely transparent” due to the associated barcoding on products, thereby removing demand for illicit items.

Rauno Raal, former ceo of Estonian Deposit Packages Organization, said that under a UK model small shops operating on the same street should collaborate to set up collection points for returned items.

Raal said a typical consumer in Lithuania and Estonia would return about 60 used containers about twice a month to DRS-participating stores.

Both Galadauskas and Raal are advising the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on its proposed DRS scheme. They were speaking at a seminar hosted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).