Calls for Deposit Return Scheme to be put on ice

Trade groups say July 2022 launch should be postponed to focus on businesses’ survival and recovery from impact of COVID-19 pandemic

The upcoming scheme will cover glass, PET, plastic, steel and aluminium

THE implementation of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in Scotland should be pushed beyond the intended July 2022 launch so the focus can remain on businesses’ survival and recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s the message from trade groups, which have collectively written to Scottish Government ministers calling on them to postpone the introduction of the scheme, under which a 20p deposit will be charged on cans and plastic and glass bottles, which is then reimbursed when they are recycled.

In the letter, groups including the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, UK Hospitality, British Beer & Pub Association and Scottish Wholesale Association – each of which sits on the DRS Implementation Advisory Group – said that while they welcomed the Scottish Government’s revised DRS launch date of July 2022 when the regulations were laid before parliament on March 16, “the scale of the economic challenge now facing companies and consumers, arising from the necessary restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19, forces us to be more frank about the prospects for making significant progress in the coming months”.

“The detailed design and implementation planning required to make DRS successful will require significant capital investment across the entire sector – amounting to tens of millions of pounds – at a time when the financial pressures on our businesses – and consumers, of course – have arguably never been greater,” said the letter.

“Furthermore, the level of stakeholder engagement required is substantial and represents a distraction from our immediate priority, which is – candidly – our survival first and foremost and then something of a recovery.

“The First Minister has stated clearly that there will likely be physical distancing measures in place for some time, even as some other restrictions are lifted. These, too, will present an ongoing challenge to producers, wholesalers, retailers and the hospitality trade, and we would rather be focused on preparing for those arrangements than on the minutiae of a scheme that will not be implemented until the summer of 2022.

“We want to work with you and your officials and advisers to help rebuild the economy and drive environmental improvement and best practice, but we believe that the efforts you are rightly taking to control the spread of COVID-19 and limit its health impacts necessitate a delay in the implementation timeline contained within the legislation.

“We therefore ask that consideration is given as to whether the legislation should be withdrawn or launch date reviewed until the future social and economic picture for consumers and businesses is clearer and a realistic programme for a world-class DRS in Scotland can be better prepared.”