Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme delayed until at least October 2025

Scottish Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater has told the Holyrood Parliament that she has ‘no other option’ but to delay Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme until at least October 2025 – the earliest date that England’s parallel scheme is expected to be in place.

While recycling is a matter devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the UK Government has invoked the Internal Market Act, demanding changes to the Scottish policy on the grounds that it was going to create imbalances to trade between the home nations.

Westminster said that it would give the Scottish recycling scheme permission to go ahead on its (already delayed) March 1, 2024 start date, so long as it excluded glass, but Ms Slater said that efforts to modify the scheme to work with just plastic and metal drinks containers had been hampered by other issues, not least the new imperative to closely align with an English scheme that had not yet been legislated for.

“The overwhelming feedback from producers, retailers and hospitality is that they cannot prepare for a March launch based on the changes being required by the UK government without any certainty even about what those changes would be,” said Ms Slater.

“As of today, it is now clear that we have been left with no other option than to delay the launch of Scotland’s DRS until October 2025 at the earliest based on the UK government’s current stated aspirations.

“I remain committed to interoperable DRS schemes across the UK provided that we can work in a spirit of collaboration not imposition,” said Ms Slater.

“Scotland will have a deposit return scheme,” she added. “It will come later than need be. It will be more limited than it should be and more limited than parliament voted for.”

Earlier this week, Circularity Scotland, the not-for-profit company set up by industry to deliver the DRS, had indicated that it wanted to press on with an amended version of the scheme on March 1, 2024.

Responding to Ms Slater’s statement, Circularity Scotland Chief Executive David Harris said: “This is clearly a disappointing outcome, which will have a significant impact on investment in Scotland.

“We have made it clear that industry was prepared for the Deposit Return Scheme to go live in March 2024, and that a scheme without glass is both economically viable and is an opportunity for Scotland to provide a platform for a UK-wide DRS.

“Regrettably, further delaying the introduction of DRS will hinder Scotland’s progress towards net zero and mean that billions of drinks containers continue to end up as waste.

“The Board of Circularity Scotland will now consider the impact of this announcement and our immediate priority will be communicating with our people. We will provide further updates in due course.”

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson commented: “Hospitality businesses across Scotland will be breathing a huge sigh of relief hearing this news and I’m delighted that the concerns raised by UKHospitality Scotland have been heard loud and clear.

“The Deposit Return Scheme, even before recent UK Government interventions, was not ready to launch in March and businesses had made that clear to the Scottish Government. Evidently, those interventions have made the prospect of launch impossible.

“This is the third delay to the scheme and it is imperative that there is now a joined up approach from all governments. It’s crucial that there is maximum alignment and interoperability across all schemes, to make things as simple as possible for businesses.”

Mr Thompson added: “Businesses are not against a recycling scheme – far from it. Hospitality already has one of the best recycling records in the economy and we can do even more, but a Deposit Return Scheme needs to work for businesses. It cannot be yet another piece of red-tape that is costly and burdensome.”

The Night Time Industries Association Scotland also welcomed the news that the Scottish DRS would be delayed until a UK wide set of standards could be agreed. 

“Scotland’s DRS scheme as it had been designed was simply unworkable and both the Scottish and UK Governments must now take this opportunity to review the fundamental flaws and challenges that would have severely disadvantaged Scotland’s small businesses,” said NTIA.

“At a meeting this morning with the First Minister the single biggest message from business was that any scheme must be identical in scope and timing across the whole of the UK.  It’s important that we take a common sense approach and consider how to design a consistent and fair UK wide set of scheme standards, avoiding market distortions.

“We will continue to engage with Governments across all 4 nations of the UK on the implementation of a UK wide set of DRS scheme standards that learn lessons from the pitfalls and mistakes which unfortunately were not able to be resolved in Scotland .”