Majority of Scottish brewers unprepared for Deposit Return Scheme

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Looking ahead: brewers and pub face challenges with the new DRS scheme
Looking ahead: brewers and pub face challenges with the new DRS scheme

Related tags Siba Alcoholic beverage Recycling

The overwhelming majority (96%) of small independent brewers in Scotland are unprepared for the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) due to be introduced next year, according to a new survey by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).

The new Government recycling scheme, due to be introduced in July 2022, will see a refundable deposit added to every bottle and can sold in Scotland as well an enrolment and administration fees for independent businesses and breweries. 

Under the scheme, drinkers in Scotland will be required to pay a 20p deposi​t on PET plastic and glass bottles as well as metal cans, which is then refunded when they are returned for recycling. 

As well as legally requiring retailers to add the 20p deposit and accept returns of empty containers, venues such as pub and bars will be required to charge the deposit and operate their own return stations for products sold as take-outs​. However, pubs will not be forced to charge the deposit to customers for drinks opened and consumed on site. 

Cost and impact

SIBA said although broadly supportive of the scheme there are concerns about its costs and impacts, with 77% of small independent brewers expecting to sell less beer in bottles and cans and two thirds intending to reduce their range of beer available. 

Under DRS, small brewers selling beer in cans and bottles also face significant changes and costs including labels, new fees and charges costing thousands of pounds. Cash flows could be hit by having to pay these fees and the deposits up front to the Scheme Administrator.
Small brewers are also expected to provide a way for empty containers to be picked up from people’s homes though a takeback service, even though the vast majority will be returned to local shops directly. Small brewers lack the technical resources to make the changes work, no guidance has yet been provided and the costs of returning containers could be higher than the beer itself.

Pandemic impact

SIBA Scotland director and managing director of Loch Lomond Brewery Fiona MacEachern said: “Small independent brewers in Scotland have been hit hard by the pandemic, with pubs closed and sales restricted they have been running on empty for some time. 

“While DRS is a laudable scheme, small brewers just don’t have the spare cash or ability to prepare for its introduction next year. Inevitably given the costs and requirements there will be less choice for consumers and a setback for craft brewing in Scotland.”

SIBA Scotland director and co-owner of Loch Leven Brewery Christie Slater said: “The challenges facing the industry is why small brewers are calling on the Scottish Government to give us extra time to prepare and allow those responsible for the vast majority of containers which are most littered to go first and make the scheme work in Scotland, but also to review the online takeback requirement which is unworkable for small brewers in its current form.”

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