Scottish stores will now have until ‘at least October 2025’ to prepare for the start of the nation’s deposit return scheme, following another delay.
In a ministerial statement, given on 7 June, today, circular economy minister Lorna Slater said she has been left with “no other option” but to delay the Scottish DRS.
This follows what the minister called “an even bigger act of sabotage” when the UK government effectively banned Scotland from including glass in its scheme on 27 May.
The latest delay means there will likely be one DRS scheme covering the entirety of the UK, an approach backed by most drinks suppliers and retailers.
Announcing the move, Slater said: “The UK Government has offered no justification for removing one of the most significant parts of the DRS, the inclusion of glass. We have been left with no other option than to delay the introduction of DRS until October 2025 at the earliest.”
The announcement marks the second delay to Scotland’s DRS plans in less than two months, having previously been set to launch in August 2023, before being moved back to March 2024.
Commenting on the latest delay to late 2025, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “It has become increasingly clear that a workable DRS system, interoperable with future schemes in the rest of the UK, cannot be put in place by March 2024. This is disappointing, but it is the right decision to work towards the launch of interoperable schemes across the UK in October 2025.
“It is absolutely essential that the governments of the UK work together to introduce a scheme that works for everyone, is effective at increasing recycling rates, and does not impose unnecessary conditions on the retailers that will be delivering the scheme on the ground.”
The Fed’s national deputy vice president, Mo Razzaq, said: “It makes sense for the Scottish government to decide now to launch at the same time as the rest of the UK, because we are far from confident the deeply flawed Scottish scheme will be ready by its most recent launch date of March 2024. Businesses are angry and seriously short-changed because of the continuing confusion…
“We call on the developers of the scheme for Wales, England, Northern Ireland and now Scotland to avoid the mistakes made in Scotland but still progress as quickly as possible to meet the urgent need for less litter and less waste of the earth’s resources. As planning has not progressed well in Scotland, we can see the case for dropping the ambitious objective of including glass from the very beginning. Most other countries in Europe have phased in glass sometime after the launch of the core part of their return schemes.
He added: “As it takes much energy to produce glass, we would urge the four nations of the UK to consider a scheme whereby drinks companies refill and reuse bottles multiple times rather than sending them to be crushed after one use.
“It is essential that retailers in Scotland who have entered into leasing contracts for machines to process returned bottles and cans, are compensated for their losses of around £4,000 a year, in addition to service charges and shop refitting to accommodate the machines.”
Calls for compensation
The delay is likely to further anger parties that have invested significant sums in preparing for a Scotland-specific scheme. The day before the latest announcement, appointed DRS collections firm Biffa described any delay as ‘a seismic and detrimental signal’ to businesses investing in recycling.
Those affected are already calling for compensation, including Fed vice president Mo Razzaq. He told Sky News he had already paid £15,000 for a reverse vending machine that can include glass. “”We were told all along that that is what is going to be included. This is the machine we were specified was required so that’s what we purchased,” he explained.