Fears bottle return scheme will not be ready by August deadline

  • In Science
  • 2023-02-01 14:42:48Z
  • By BBC
Empty plastic bottles
Empty plastic bottles  

A leading trade body fears Scotland's deposit return scheme will not be ready to launch in August.

The flagship initiative is designed to boost recycling via a 20p deposit on single-use drinks bottles and cans.

But the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said its members, who must sign up by 1 March, had yet to see an operational blueprint.

The Scottish government said it was working with the industry to deliver the scheme.

The chief executive of Circularity Scotland, the newly created company that will administer the initiative, told BBC Scotland it would be ready for its launch date of 16 August.

But Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the SRC, urged ministers to provide clarity for his members by the end of the month.

Otherwise, he warned, consumers faced disruption, higher prices and reduced choice.

recycling Denmark
recycling Denmark  

Mr MacDonald-Russell said: "Despite this enormous investment we are alarmed at the failure of government and the bodies it has approved to provide the key information needed for retailers to build a workable return system.

"We are already beyond reasonable deadlines for this scheme to land well in August."

Following a meeting with Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater on Tuesday, Mr MacDonald-Russell said the scheme was in "last chance saloon".

He added: "Unless the Scottish government and its partners can deliver a complete operational blueprint by the end of February, covering the key information retailers need to deliver the necessary infrastructure for DRS to succeed, we do not believe the scheme can launch successfully in mid-August."

He cautioned the potential fall-out would see consumers face "a bewildering patchwork of approaches" that would make the recycling process "cumbersome".

A woman selects a single-use drink from a supermarket shelf
A woman selects a single-use drink from a supermarket shelf  

Under the scheme every producer based in Scotland will have to add a 20p to every product that they make before it is sold anywhere in the country.

It will then be charged to the retailer who will in turn bill the consumer.

In order to recoup this money people need to take the empty bottles or cans to a reverse vending machine in a supermarket or designated return point.

Dougal Sharp, founder of Innis & Gunn, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme there would be an additional 10p to 20p in admin costs per product associated with the scheme.

Put together that could mean consumers face paying an additional £1.60 for a four-pack of the company's craft beer and £4 for a 10-pack.

Asked why he had described the scheme as "extortion" by the Scottish government, Mr Sharp said: "Without signing up to the producer agreement we cannot sell anything in Scotland. It's that simple.

"But the big problem is that, contained within the producer agreement, is an obligation that will require Innis & Gunn, in the event that the scheme doesn't launch on 16 August this year, to pay significant sums of money into Circularity Scotland.

"So it is a case of 'if you don't sign up you can't trade' and 'if you do sign up and we don't launch you're on the hook for significant sums of money'."

'Eye watering'

Mr Sharp described the sliding scale of liabilities, which he said amounted to an unsecured loan, as "eye watering".

For major companies he said this ranged from £50,000 to £1.5m a month.

Mr Sharp said a "huge amount of infrastructure" was required ahead of the launch, from recycling centres to vehicles.

He added: "We are worried that the complexity of the scheme and the significant costs, both to producers and the end users, may jeopardise its success."


Justin Wingate, of On Trade Scotland magazine, told Good Morning Scotland the additional costs would filter down from the manufacturer to the consumer.

He also said there was uncertainty in the hospitality sector as to why there was such a push forward from Circularity Scotland and the Scottish government to implement something that "they have admitted themselves is not ready, and they are not ready for".

Mr Wingate added massive pressure was being put on brands, venues and administrators to deliver the scheme.

The subject has been hotly debated on social media and a thread by Edinburgh-based craft brewer Theo Barnes warned smaller companies would face major cashflow problems.

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden also said businesses hadn't been given answers "to the most basic questions".

But David Harris, chief executive of Circularity Scotland, said the responsibility for operating the scheme rested with the producers.

Asked about the current launch plan, he told Good Morning Scotland: "The scheme will be ready."

Mr Harris described the initiative as "a very major piece of environmental infrastructure" which would have an impact on small and major producers as well as convenience stores and supermarkets.

He added: "We are not saying it will be perfect on day one but we are saying it will be up and running on time."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We have committed to a pragmatic approach to implementation and to make the scheme more efficient and reduce costs.

"Ministers and officials regularly meet with industry and will continue to do so as we work together to deliver this scheme."


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