The Scottish government recently announced its intention to look more closely into the feasibility of a deposit return scheme, commissioning research to look at different DRS models and their impact on retailers, consumers and recycling.
While this is currently just being considered officially in Scotland, authorities in England and Wales are likely keeping a close eye on proceedings.
Our view has been consistent that a scheme would not be effective, and would place unnecessary burdens on the convenience sector. Together with the Scottish Grocers Federation, we commissioned independently-facilitated focus groups and polling with consumers and retailers to explore issues around recycling and operating a DRS model and other options.
This is an important debate, not just for our sector, but for many other businesses and indeed for the environment
The retailers we spoke to identified issues that you will probably relate to, such as not having space in store to take bottles and cans; health and safety and hygiene concerns; and potential confrontations with customers over what can and can’t be accepted.
That’s without getting into the challenges of installing large reverse vending machines. Thankfully, this evidence has been recognised by the Scottish Parliament’s Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.
Perhaps more importantly, consumers didn’t see DRS as the right way to improve recycling. They prefer kerbside collection at their homes, and in fact, taking some packaging out of the system of kerbside collection would make this less financially viable. That’s not to say there aren’t improvements that could, be made to kerbside collection, for example more consistency on what can be left in different bins, and clearer information to help people to separate waste.
This is an important debate, not just for our sector, but for many other businesses and indeed for the environment. We hope the Scottish government will think carefully and deeply about the best ways to improve recycling, and work with retailers to define the right way forward.
Read more: Retail Express columnist Harris Aslam’s view on deposit return schemes.