Pubs to benefit from amendments to DRS

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Amendments to DRS: pubs will not have to also be a return point for recycling under new rule changes (credit: Getty/cagkansayin)
Amendments to DRS: pubs will not have to also be a return point for recycling under new rule changes (credit: Getty/cagkansayin)

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Changes to the proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in Scotland that are set to benefit pubs and craft drinks producers have been welcomed by the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA).

Scottish government’s circular economy minister Lorna Slater has announced a range of measures to help drinks producers and retailers prepare for the scheme while ensuring environmental benefits are still delivered.

She also repeated the call on the UK Government to issue an exclusion for the scheme from the Internal Market Act that has been in place since Brexit without consent from Scotland’s government.

The changes come at a time when the proposed initiative has been pushed back from starting this August until March 2024​.

The changes announced include:

  • Drinks containers of under 100ml will be excluded, removing miniatures and other smaller containers from the scheme
  • Products that sell fewer than 5,000 units per year will be excluded, which should benefit craft producers
  • All hospitality premises that sell the large majority of their drinks products for consumption on the premises will be exempt from acting as a return point
  • The online application process for retailers to apply for an exemption from providing a return point has been simplified

Reduce litter

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said: “Scotland’s DRS will reduce litter on our streets, massively increase the recycling of drinks containers and help meet our net zero ambitions.

“However, to realise these benefits, DRS needs to be delivered in a way that works for businesses, especially for small drinks producers. The changes I have set out will make the scheme easier for industry to deliver – especially for craft producers – while still making sure the vast majority of drinks containers are captured for recycling.

“To move forward with certainty, the UK Government must stop delaying the long overdue exclusion from the Internal Market Act. This damaging Act was imposed on the Scottish Parliament after Brexit without its consent and creates confusion and uncertainty for businesses.

Changes to the DRS are subject to approval of the Scottish parliament while the current deposit return scheme regulations include all drinks from 50ml to three litres and places no lower limit on the volume of sales to qualify for the scheme.

Introducing a threshold of 5,000 units per year hopes to remove many craft drinks and limited-edition products and although this change will only remove around 0.5% of articles from the scheme, it will remove the need for around 44% of businesses to apply a deposit to their products.

De-risking DRS

SWA chief executive Colin Smith said: “One of our aims, and we have been pushing for this since 2019, has been to have a de-minimis approach to ensure wholesalers putting small volumes of a product onto the market aren’t hit hard by DRS and to protect the consumer choice in hospitality and speciality retail, where such products are primarily sold.

“We were extremely pleased that our ongoing engagement with the circular economy minister resulted in her announcement of a de-minimis for all products below 5,000 unit sales.

“This will not only help our wholesalers and smaller producers but also reduce the numbers of producers Circularity Scotland (administrator of the DRS) has to deal with, thereby simplifying and de-risking Scotland’s DRS.”

On the delaying of the implementation of DRS announced by first minister Humza Yousaf earlier this week, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “It’s excellent news for our sector as many pubs and restaurants have been extremely worried about how the DRS is going to work in practice – common sense has prevailed.”

The SLTA also welcomed the scrapping of plans for a major clampdown on alcohol advertising by Yousaf.

Drinks producers will have until 12 January 2024 to register for the DRS.

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