The Scottish government is expected to publish guidance on how retailers can apply for DRS exemptions in January of next year, betterRetailing understands.

The possibility of an exemption from the deposit return scheme (DRS), due to be rolled out in July 2022, was first revealed by the government last year, but no clarity on the process was provided.

Zero Waste Scotland’s (ZWS) DRS programme manager, David Barnes, told betterRetailing that retailers should expect a formal announcement in January 2021 on how it would work.

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“The Scottish government would support an exemption for a retailer who agrees an alternative return point with another premises,” he said. “Or, if it is physically impossible to operate a return point without compromising other legislations, including health and safety or food standards.”

Acknowledging the criticism from retailers over the inclusion of glass, he advised those concerned to speak to their local environmental health officer.

“We expect the scheme administrator to provide suitable containers to store the returned bottles, so retailers should feel confident that they will be appropriate for their shop,” said Barnes.

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A growing number of retailers have criticised the Scottish government this year for failing to recognise the value of the selling space behind their counters where they would be expected to store empty containers.

When asked whether ZWS would consider a grant scheme to help retailers make the necessary adjustments to their store, Barnes said it was “too premature to talk about that”.

“The challenge with store layout comes down to what containers are used by the scheme administrator, the frequency they are collected and how individual shops would be expected to
store them,” he added.

However, Barnes confirmed that the scheme administrator would consider how DRS operates in other European countries.

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“It is possible for ad-hoc collections to be arranged if there is a surge in returns,” he said.

“Small stores in other countries are only expected to store one or two bags before they are picked up.”

Out of the 17,000 return points, Barnes added that he only expects 3,000 (17%) to require a reverse vending machine, leaving 83% of retailers taking back manual returns.

Following the passing of the regulations by Scottish parliament in May, applications for the scheme administrator are now open.

“We didn’t expect applications to come in immediately, but it is likely it will be made up of a number of parties,” said Barnes. “They will come forward in the next couple of months. It is then up to the Scottish government to gather the information to make the right representation.”

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