Many firms won’t meet DRS deadline

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Glass act: trade bodies believe a lack of clarity on the DRS is delaying preparations for the implementation of the scheme. Credit: (Getty/Zero Creatives)
Glass act: trade bodies believe a lack of clarity on the DRS is delaying preparations for the implementation of the scheme. Credit: (Getty/Zero Creatives)

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Trade associations have warned the Scottish government thousands of businesses are unable to meet the deadline to implement the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS).

Many small producers lack the financial resources and capacity to meet the current DRS deadline and a grace period is needed to prevent empty shelves from August.

In an open letter to the Scottish government minister Lorna Slater, the trade groups – which include the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) and the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) – warned without urgent changes by the Scottish government to give small producers a legal grace period, where small producers can opt into the scheme, many products will no longer be available in Scotland from 16 August and prices will substantially increase.

They also stated there is a continued lack of clarity on how the scheme will work and what action small producers need to take to prepare.

12 to 24 months needed

The planned DRS​ demands all drinks producers and any business selling single-use drinks containers in Scotland be required recycle drinks containers, such as bottles and cans. The scheme aims to ensure at least 90% of drinks containers are captured and prevented from becoming waste.

According to the trade groups, the government’s own Gateway Review​ last year found producers needed 12 to 24 months to prepare once “meaningful decisions” have been reached, yet these are still not known with only a few weeks left to register ahead of the legal deadline on 28 February.

The letter which has been signed by SIBA, WSTA, Scottish Wholesale Association, the Scotch Whisky Association and Scotland Food & Drink, call on the minister to introduce an 18-month grace period in the regulations and that, without action, small businesses will be “disproportionately impacted by the scheme’s requirements”.

The minister recently agreed to reopen the regulations and this provides a window of opportunity to agree and formalise the legal support they need while ensuring DRS is launched on time with the vast majority of containers included.

Further uncertainty

In December, the minister had indicated the regulator, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), will accept a “proactive and managed approach towards compliance” yet without a legal footing this will create further uncertainty for small producers say the trade associations.

The letter stated that “without a standardised, agreed and legal basis set out in regulations there will be additional confusion in an already impossible situation. It will be very difficult for SEPA to agree different timetables for each of the thousands of small producers impacted by the scheme”.

In a joint statement, the trade associations said: “There are now only a few weeks left to save thousands of small producers that will be banned from selling bottles and cans in Scotland from August.

“They lack the finances and resources to meet the scheme’s requirements on time and need an 18-month legal grace period in the regulations and the option to opt in.

“Without this certainty, it’s likely consumers will lose out through reduced consumer choice and increased prices.”

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