24 May 2024

Mid Wales First: Results from world’s first full-town digital deposit return scheme trial are in

Residents and businesses in mid-Wales have helped to create a world-first initiative to by taking part in the trial of a digital deposit return scheme (DDRS).

Deposit return schemes (DRS) are successfully used across the world as a way of encouraging more people to recycle drinks containers like bottles and cans.

Householders and visitors to Brecon took part in the DDRS Scan|Recycle|Reward trial, and the recently published results show high levels of engagement with 18,794 rewards being claimed, more than four for every household.

The Brecon Scan|Recycle|Reward trial was led by DDRS Alliance with support from Welsh Government, Powys County Council, WRAP’s Collaborative Change Programme and local retailers.

The trial worked differently from a traditional deposit return scheme as it trialled technology that digitally scans the drinks containers, meaning deposits can even be reclaimed from the comfort of people’s homes. It was also reward-based, with residents claiming a 10p reward when returning eligible containers. Usually, people are charged a deposit on drinks container which then must be taken back to a retailer or to a reverse vending machine to reclaim the deposit.

Those involved with the trial in Brecon say the high level of cooperation with the scheme shows that people in Wales are open to using a digital deposit return scheme in the future.

The positive results from the trial included:

  • 58% of all returned containers came through the household weekly recycling collections
  • the trial showed a range of return options was preferred over any particular route
  • 97.6% of all containers returned at home were captured in the recycling stream
  • there was no significant fraud or misuse of the system
  • despite being an early trial, 56% of participants surveyed said they would recommend the scheme in the future

Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change, Huw Irranca-Davies said, “I’d like to thank the people of Brecon for taking part in the Digital Deposit Return Scheme trial – their willingness to get involved will help develop our plans for the DRS across Wales.

“This trial will support our ongoing work into DDRS and help build on our already world class recycling rates. Our aim is to move to a more circular economy where resources are reused and recycled rather than being wasted.”

The trial enabled eligible containers to be returned, with participants claiming a 10p reward for each one, through four different return methods tailored to accommodate non-smartphone users as well as those happy to use the technology:

  • Kerbside: Utilised existing weekly kerbside recycling service, crediting rewards to an online account (smartphone required).
  • Automated Return Point (ARP): Similar to traditional Reverse Vending Machines (but much simpler), rewards were credited to either online accounts or printed cash vouchers (smartphone optional).
  • Community Bins: Outdoor, on-the-go option crediting rewards to an online account (smartphone required).
  • Over the Counter Return (OTC): Rewards redeemed in-store as cash (smartphone not required).

Over the course of the Scan|Recycle|Reward trial, 18,794 rewards were claimed. Results indicated kerbside return as the most popular and convenient method (chosen for 58% of returns), with 97.6% capture compliance observed.

The analysis showcased high material quality across return routes, with PET plastic bottles comprising 63% of returns, followed by cans (29%), cartons (7%), and glass (less than 1%).

Matt Perry, Powys County Council’s Chief Officer said: “The residents, visitors and retailers of Brecon thoroughly embraced their involvement in this innovative trial, and it was encouraging to witness everyone’s enthusiasm and willingness to give the digital technology a go. The results show for themselves how a digital version of the traditional return deposit schemes could easily be incorporated into the already established weekly kerbside collections services offered by most local authorities making life easier for citizens to return containers whilst also keeping our carbon footprint to a minimum.”

DDRS Alliance members said: “We came together to deliver a scalable technology solution to support the Brecon trial.

“The system worked flawlessly behind the scenes despite being supported from five European countries and the results show how simple this solution is to the public.”

Co-founder & Director of DDRS Alliance, Duncan Midwood said: “This trial was incredibly complex, involving 24 retailers and over 50 suppliers and partners.

“Despite its complexity, it worked flawlessly and has delivered some great insight and, more importantly, showed that the British public values a solution for increasing recycling and reducing litter that fits in with their varied and busy lives.”

Claire Shrewsberry, Director of Insights & Innovation, WRAP said: “This trial has been hugely important to better understand the complexities of operating a successful DDRS scheme in Wales. It’s clear that the people involved have completely embraced the options. WRAP looks forward to helping Welsh Government introduce a DRS system that works successfully across the whole country and builds on its impressive recycling performance”.

To learn more, visit https://wrapcymru.org.uk/resources/report/digital-deposit-return-scheme-ddrs-trial-brecon