Call for deposit return scheme to be delayed until 2023

Concerns have been raised that parts of the food and drink industry are not ready for the scheme.

Call for deposit return scheme to be delayed until 2023 iStock
The Scottish Government has said it is committed to the scheme being operational 'as soon as is practicably possible'.

Ministers have been urged to delay the introduction of the deposit return scheme in Scotland until 2023.

It comes as concerns were raised that parts of the food and drink industry are not ready for the scheme.

The issue was raised as MSPs heard evidence at Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee on Tuesday.

Last month, Scottish Green minister Lorna Slater indicated that a new date for the launch of the scheme would be announced “in due course”.

But, she insisted that the Scottish Government remains “fully committed” to the plans.

The scheme would see shoppers pay 20p for drinks in cans and bottles, with the money returned to them when they return the empty containers for recycling.

It had due to launch in April 2021, but a combination of the Covid pandemic, Brexit and VAT issues are said to have hampered its progress.

Speaking at the committee, Jim Fox, associate director of public affairs at the Food and Drink Federation Scotland outlined the importance of bringing the scheme in fully, rather than incrementally.

“I know that the minister (Lorna Slater) is considering a delay in that and we hope that she does delay,” he said.

“There are some parts of the industry that are ready to go and some parts that are not ready to go.

“On DRS, it can’t be delivered in parts, it’s got to be the whole and our best estimate of the right time to go on DRS is September 2023.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government reiterated its commitment to implementing the scheme.

He said: “Scotland’s scheme will be among the most environmentally ambitious and accessible in Europe, including tens of thousands of return points for plastic, metal and glass containers, as well as pick-ups for online deliveries.

“Industry has made progress, including the establishment of a scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland.

“This has been done in trying circumstances, with those sectors responsible for delivering the scheme facing unprecedented disruption as a result of the pandemic and Brexit.

“That is why we commissioned an independent review of progress and readiness for the go-live date.

“We are committed to the scheme being operational as soon as is practicably possible.

“We are working hard with Circularity Scotland and wider industry, including retailers, to determine a final timescale and clear milestones for delivery, and will announce that schedule to Parliament in due course.”