World-First Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) trial reveals deep insights

World-First Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS) trial reveals deep insights
Photo - Kezzler

The not-for-profit DDRS Alliance—whose members include Circularity Solutions, Recycl3r, ACE UK, Tetra Pak, Kezzler, and Valpak—provides further insight into the report just published on the world’s first full-town Digital DRS trial in Brecon, Wales.

DDRS Alliance led the Welsh government-sponsored trial, which ran for 16 weeks from July to November 2023. WRAP has now published the long-awaited report on the trial, which is available to download. The report describes in detail the purpose of the trial, how it worked, and the critical results from it. It concludes that the trial demonstrated high levels of compliance, with 18,794 rewards being claimed, more than four for every household. The trial area included all 4,300 households in Brecon, with a population of 300 residents.

Those involved with the trial say the high level of cooperation with the scheme shows that people in Wales are open to using a digital deposit return scheme. For the first time, the public demonstrated a clear preference for having a choice of home-, community- and retail-based return options.

More positive results from the trial included:

  • 58% of all returns came through the household collection route

  • The trial showed a range of return options was preferred over any particular option

  • 97.6.% of all containers returned at home were captured in the recycling stream

  • There was no significant fraud or misuse of the system.

  • 56% of those surveyed said they would recommend the scheme in the future

DDRS Alliance has added further insight and interpretation to the report:

  • The trial demonstrated how highly valuable data is generated in a Digital DRS where every single drink container is tracked, providing insight into the public's behavior.

  • Recycle at home, the way they interact with the products and packaging, and their concerns and preferences about how they choose to recycle

  • The technology generated data about which products were returned from which retailer to which type of return point and whether singly or in bulk.

  • As only residents of the town itself had access to the kerbside return option, the adjusted kerbside return rate, had all participants been able to return at home, has been calculated at 64.6%

  • The trial excluded multipack and multi-serve chilled products (such as fresh juice and dairy) consumed at home and alcoholic drinks. These products would normally be part of a national DRS. Had these been part of the trial, it would be expected that kerbside returns would have been 70-80%

  • A survey of participating retailers showed overwhelming support for the trial and the continued development of Digital DRS in line with DDRS Alliance’s mission to develop a global blueprint based on defined standards.

DDRS Alliance is now finalizing plans to trial the Digital DRS solution in a challenging urban environment where compliance and misuse are likely to be severely tested. The so-called ‘urban trial’ will be carried out in a North London borough later this year and will also model a segregated kerbside process—where DRS material is kept separated from general recycling material. The trial will also include containers serialized (or uniquely coded) manufactured for the first time in an open retail environment.

Duncan Midwood, co-founder of DDRS Alliance, said, “The true test of a Digital DRS solution is not whether the technology works – it has demonstrated this for years – but whether the UK citizen will embrace what Digital DRS can bring – convenience and choice around recycling – and how they interact with it. The Brecon trial proved that the Welsh consumer finds Digital DRS a convenient and simple solution that fits their current lifestyles and that curbside recycling should be included in any future deposit return scheme. We are now set to demonstrate that these principles apply equally in a tough urban environment. The planned urban trial will examine how urban householders would engage with a Digital DRS and the impact of keeping DRS materials segregated at kerbside.”

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