Urgent review of DRS plea by Scottish trade associations

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Recycling scheme: there are many details to iron out (credit: Getty/FotografiaBasica)
Recycling scheme: there are many details to iron out (credit: Getty/FotografiaBasica)

Related tags Legislation Social responsibility Health and safety

A collective representing drinks producers in Scotland has demanded an urgent review of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) that is set to come into force in August.

The group, which comprises the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) have welcomed the statement from scheme organiser Circularity Scotland that has pledged £22m funding​ for drinks producers but said the scheme has “fundamental flaws” and an “urgent full gateway review” is needed.

The DRS is a proposal​ that aims to cut packaging waste and tackle climate change.

Threshold increase wish

The body of trade groups said small producers and importers, including independent craft brewers, distillers and wine makers, want the threshold from 3m units increased to 5m units for businesses exempt from the day one and month one charges.

They also want further necessary steps not included in the changes announced by Circularity Scotland last week. Without addressing SME legitimate concerns, Circularity Scotland could fall short of its claim to register over 4,500 producers, the group added.

In a joint statement, the trade associations said: “The registration for DRS closes within days at the end of February and while these recently announced changes will certainly alleviate cashflow issues when the system is introduced, it leaves a mountain to be climbed for small businesses to be compliant with the scheme, with essential changes still needed to fix the system’s fundamental flaws.”

Three key changes

It continued: “In order to make the scheme viable, there are three key changes that must be made: a simplified registration available over a longer time period; an 18-month grace period for small producers and a de-minimis low-volume exemption to allow the supply chain and retailers the time to work out the inevitable teething troubles; and an increased focus on providing producers and retailers timely information and solutions that are proportional to the environmental impact of businesses.

“Small producers contribute a tiny proportion of products towards Scotland’s littering issues and yet are being burdened with the same legislative complexity and costs as global producers. The minister [for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater] should urgently carry out a new full gateway review that was recommended last year.”

The collective explained the gateway review is an assurance of an action plan was published in December 2022 and recommended that a full review should be carried out in February 2023 or close to this date.

Meanwhile, UKHospitality Scotland has also called for a pause and review of the DRS.

Executive director Leon Thompson said: “The flawed model, complexity and burdens of the scheme will put unnecessary pressure on both businesses and consumers, who are all struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

“These cast-iron facts, alongside concerns around how it could impact trading with the rest of the UK, necessitate an immediate halt to the scheme’s introduction and I am calling on all leadership candidates to commit to pausing and then ordering a full review of this now discredited scheme.”

He added the DRS needs to be a UK-wide one and added: “Hospitality businesses are not against a scheme but they want one that takes account of the excellent rates of recycling across our sector and targets resources where DRS can make a difference to littering and sustainability targets.

“The current iteration does none of that which is why a full review is now essential.”

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