Polling highlights strong UK public support for Deposit Return Scheme roll-out

Polling highlights strong UK public support for Deposit Return Scheme roll-out

Polling has revealed strong public support for the introduction of deposit return schemes across the UK.

Research commissioned by Message Matters client TOMRA Collection, a global leader in the reverse vending technology which is critical to the programmes, found that three-quarters of people surveyed (75%)  back the move.

We worked with our regular polling collaborator The Diffley Partnership, in conjunction with Survation, to carry out the work, which led to coverage in the national, trade and regional media across the UK.

Deposit return schemes (DRSs) are already established in many countries where they are helping to reduce litter and improve recycling rates.  Polling of people across the UK 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 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.

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.”

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. 

Mhairi McFarlane, Research Manager at The 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.”

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.

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.

Tomra conducted UK-wide polling on Deposit Return Schemes as part of its work with Message Matters


  • As a circular economy initiative, a DRS seeks to build a closed-loop system to ensure that drink containers can be recycled into new containers again and again. The separate return of drink containers reduces exposure to other kinds of waste, to ensure the quality and purity of collected material streams. 
  • Deposit return systems for beverage containers work by adding a small deposit on top of the price of a beverage – such as those in plastic/glass bottles and cans – which is refunded to the consumer when they return the empty drink container for recycling. Also known as container deposit schemes or bottle bills, they are typically established through legislation passed by state or national governments. Existing DRSs across Europe have achieved return rates between 92% and 98%. 
  • TOMRA has over 50 years’ experience working in deposit return systems around the world, across all parts of the value chain. TOMRA’s approximately 85,000 reverse vending machines, in over 60 markets, collect more than 46 billion drink containers for recycling each year.