Environment and Sustainability

Building a more environmentally sustainable industry is not only right in terms of social responsibility, it also makes good business sense. The WSTA supports a range of initiatives to maximise the sustainability of the wine and spirit sector.

Environmental Best Practice Booklet

The WSTA’s best practice booklet showcases member’s initiatives from wine and spirit producers, merchants and transporters, from across the world. Members can download a copy from our Guides and Publications page.

Deposit Return Schemes (DRS)

The WSTA supports improved recycling measures, including a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). However, we are extremely concerned for the inclusion of glass within a DRS both in Scotland and for the rest of the UK.

Regardless of being included in a DRS or not, forthcoming legislation will ramp up the financial contributions of business for recycling and enabling the circular economy –industry should pay and improve the recyclability of its packaging. The WSTA is pushing for a UK-wide standardised system that improves kerbside recycling for glass and excludes glass from the DRS, as this is proven to be more egalitarian and yields the same recycling rates. The top glass recycling nations in Europe do not use a costly DRS system for wines and spirits.

What is a DRS?

A DRS requires consumers to pay a fee for drinks container packaging which can only be redeemed if the packaging is returned to a registered return point.

A fee deposited could be about 20p per container, but might also be modulated depending on the packaging material/s or recyclability of the item. The intention is to improve recycling rates, improve packaging design, and help fund government recycling initiatives with unredeemed deposits.

Why are we opposed to including glass in a DRS?

  • Including glass increases drastically the costs and complexities of the scheme and that these costs will ultimately be passed on to consumers. Glass will make up about 80% of the tonnage of recycling packaging but contribute only about 7% of the value.
  • To fund DRS producers will need to pay a fee per container – say 4p to 7p per bottle (by comparison in Norway, with no glass in scope, the producer fees are between <0.5p (aluminium) and around 1p (plastic bottles). These fees will equate to tens of millions of pounds a year paid for by consumers – ignoring much cheaper methods to achieve the same outcome.
  • We believe the best alternative to DRS is improved kerbside recycling for most glass packaging, because the majority of consumer bought spirits and wine are consumed in the home. Continuing kerbside collections will reduce additional journeys to return bottles and prevent associated vehicular emissions for collections to recycling centres from return points. Kerbside collections are easier for consumers to use and, according to Government research, are more socially equitable. The UK Government announced plans to improve and standardise household collections in February 2019, it would be best to see these changes be rolled out and witness improved glass recycling at a fraction of the cost and complexity of DRS.
  • As well as 14,000 manual return points, 3000 much larger and more expensive RVMs will be required to handle the 268% increase in tonnage within the Scottish scheme alone. Transport costs, storage, security, health and safety and hygiene issues become much bigger issues. Store adjustments and a significant loss of selling space will all add extra cost and time to put in place. Producers and retailers will inevitably review their glass bottle portfolio or may even look to substitute with plastic bottles which may be much cheaper to produce and recycle than glass.
  • Smaller retailers and take-away food outlets will have to manually take-back glass bottles and redeem deposits where they currently do not handle glass at all. This will require all obligated retailers to hold more cash and reclaim losses via the deposit management organisation. Extra costs particularly in administration, Scotland-only labels (if required) and SKUs will negatively impact imports and exports.
  • Glass bottles from the hospitality sector will now have a significant value and need to be stored securely posing challenges for many in the on-trade.


Whilst breakages present a hazard, there is little evidence that glass beverage containers are a major litter issue. Marine anthropogenic litter on British beaches: a 10-year nationwide assessment using citizen science data’ found that glass consists of only 3% of litter on British Beaches. This is borne out by the lack of glass only litter bins in public places (as opposed to the availability for bins dedicated to plastics metal cans, paper and disposable cups).
Substitution to other packaging types due to DRS has been witnessed in countries where it has been introduced. Glass is inert and made from naturally abundant materials. Emerging evidence suggests we need to reduce our use of plastic – any increase as a result of DRS would be regressive for the environment, marine life and potentially human health.

The Circular Economy

Government ambition to deliver a circular economy will not be achieved by a DRS, especially for glass beverage containers. Currently over 85% of glass bottles either manufactured and filled in Scotland or manufactured in England, and filled in Scotland, are exported. These filled products tend to be aimed at the premium market (spirits etc). Although these products are not placed in the Scottish market this is quality flint cullet which will never be recovered making the circular economy for glass impossible.


Coloured wine bottles are often imported. Once recycled they have low value and there are few options for reprocessing in the UK – most recycled glass is used as aggregate, in the UK, as it is hugely expensive and creates high emissions to ship the glass back to factories in Europe or beyond.

To be of “Re-melt” quality glass cannot be crushed at source making the storage of returned containers more problematic for retailers and other obligated outlets than other materials. Crushed glass cannot be colour sorted and so can only be used for end of life applications such as non-flint glass or aggregate. This will go against the basic principles of a circular economy. It is estimated that each stage of the process where glass is handled result in a potential 5% loss of small glass particles. The proposed DRS structure will result in greater losses of glass, and an increase in co-mingled colours of glass than current kerbside collections.

We believe glass should be the preferred enclosure for drinks – it is inert, 100% recyclable, does not cause microplastic pollution, and the natural substances used to make it are readily available. The industry has made large changes to bottling to reduce glass mass per bottle from highs of 1,000 grams to under 300 grams per bottle today. We welcome further discussion with Government and devolved administrations on how best to maximise the sustainability of our industry and strongly believe DRS is not the answer.

Carbon Calculator

5 years ago the WSTA, partnering with JF Hillebrand, launched its first carbon emissions calculator. The calculator has been free to all our website visitors to help estimate their business’ carbon footprint (CO2e) for the movement of their goods across a range of different transport vehicles for land and sea.

For launch later this year, JF Hillebrand has generously agreed to share its updated modelling and a new carbon calculator, based on the latest carbon emission estimates, will be available on the WSTA’s website.