Controversial Deposit Return Scheme delayed until October 2025

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Determined outlook: Scottish government environment minister Lorna Slater still aims to give Scotland and the UK a Deposit Return Scheme (credit: Scottish parliament)
Determined outlook: Scottish government environment minister Lorna Slater still aims to give Scotland and the UK a Deposit Return Scheme (credit: Scottish parliament)

Related tags Legislation Finance Government Scottish government Social responsibility

Trade bodies have welcomed the opportunity for a more collaborative approach to finalising the details of Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) after the start of the initiative was delayed for the third time.

The launch of the DRS will be delayed until at least October 2025 as a consequence of the UK Government’s refusal to agree a full exclusion from the Internal Market Act, Scottish government’s circular economy minister Lorna Slater told the Scottish parliament.

Last week, the UK Government imposed a number of significant conditions on the scheme, including the removal of glass and the requirement to align aspects of the scheme with schemes across the UK – none of which exist at the moment or have regulations in place, the Scottish government said.

Following consultations with key businesses including producers, ministers concluded certainty on critical elements of the scheme cannot be provided to businesses until the UK Government publishes more detail and therefore Scotland’s DRS must be delayed. 

Slater said: “It is now clear we have been left with no other option than to delay the launch of Scotland’s DRS until October 2025 at the earliest, based on the UK Government’s current stated aspirations.

“I remain committed to interoperable DRS schemes across the UK provided that we can work in a spirit of collaboration not imposition. I wrote again last night to the UK Government, to urge ministers to reset a climate of trust and good faith to galvanise and retain the knowledge that has been built in Circularity Scotland and DRS partners in Scotland.

“This parliament voted for a DRS. I am committed to a DRS. Scotland will have a DRS. It will come later than need be. It will be more limited than it should be. More limited than parliament voted for.

“These delays and dilutions lie squarely in the hands of UK Government that has sadly seemed so far more intent on sabotaging this parliament than protecting our environment.”

Huge sigh of relief

However, UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “Hospitality businesses across Scotland will be breathing a huge sigh of relief hearing this news and I’m delighted that the concerns raised by UKHospitality Scotland have been heard loud and clear.

“The DRS, even before recent UK Government interventions, was not ready to launch in March and businesses had made that clear to the Scottish government. Evidently, those interventions have made the prospect of launch impossible. 

“This is the third delay to the scheme and it is imperative there is now a joined up approach from all governments. It’s crucial that there is maximum alignment and interoperability across all schemes, to make things as simple as possible for businesses.

“Businesses are not against a recycling scheme – far from it. Hospitality already has one of the best recycling records in the economy and we can do even more, but a Deposit Return Scheme needs to work for businesses. It cannot be yet another piece of red-tape that is costly and burdensome.

“It’s time for work to begin on a scheme that can genuinely achieve the environmental and sustainability ambitions we all have, with true engagement with business.”

The Society of Independent Brewers’ (SIBA) Jamie Delap added: “Small independent breweries have been clear from the start the gold standard for the DRS is for it to have the same scope and be introduced at the same time across the whole of the UK. Doing so will ensure it works more effectively, reduce its costs, and avoids impact on consumer choice.

“The announcement from the Scottish government that the scheme will be delayed until October 2025 and they intend to remove glass moves us towards achieving this goal of a joined up scheme across the UK but there are still questions about differences in Wales and it’s inter-operability.

“We have seen how positive engagement with industry in recent months can improve the scheme and make it more workable and it is important for all governments to work together and with industry to achieve the best scheme for the whole of the UK.”

Administrator of the initiative Circularity Scotland chief executive David Harris said: “This is clearly a disappointing outcome, which will have a significant impact on investment in Scotland.

“We have made it clear the industry was prepared for the DRS to go live in March 2024 and that a scheme without glass is both economically viable and is an opportunity for Scotland to provide a platform for a UK-wide DRS.”

Billions of drinks containers will be waste

He continued: “Regrettably, further delaying the introduction of DRS will hinder Scotland’s progress towards net zero and mean that billions of drinks containers continue to end up as waste.

“The board of Circularity Scotland will now consider the impact of this announcement and our immediate priority will be communicating with our people.”

Yesterday, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) called for the Scottish and UK governments to collaborate on a revamped Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) to ensure choices of beers and ciders from smaller producers are not reduced for the initiative.

CAMRA’s Scottish Director Stuart McMahon said: “This is a chance for the UK and Scottish governments to work together to make sure that we can have Deposit Return Schemes that are easy to understand for consumers and which work seamlessly across borders.

“CAMRA supports the principles of a deposit return scheme, but the Scottish government’s proposals risked a catastrophic reduction in choice for consumers of quality beer and cider from small and independent businesses from across these islands.

“Whatever happens next, ministers must now make sure small brewers and cider producers from elsewhere in the UK can afford to keep selling their products into the Scottish market.

“These businesses provide consumers with a choice of distinctive and quality products but, at a time of rising costs, rocketing energy bills and customers tightening their belts, the last thing they can afford is extra costs and red tape just to keep selling into Scotland.”

Earlier this week, Circularity Scotland said Scotland and the UK cannot afford to lose the DRS and that the project had become a target of negativity​.

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