Businesses in Scotland will have lost “tens of millions” because of the delay to the deposit return scheme, a senior figure from drinks giant Coca-Cola has said as he warned plans to introduce the recycling initiative in 2025 “must be on a shaky peg”.
Jim Fox, head of public affairs at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners GB, said his company would not make a claim against the Scottish Government for lost money “because our legal advisers say it is too messy”.
Scottish ministers had hoped to bring in a scheme which would have seen shoppers north of the border charged a deposit when buying drinks in cans or bottles – with this cash then returned to them when the empty containers were returned for recycling.
But the scheme, which had already been delayed, was pushed back until October 2025 after it faced heavy criticism from some in the drinks industry, while the UK Government refused to allow glass bottles to be included.
Mr Fox insisted that Coca-Cola would “do it as soon as possible”, but speaking at a fringe event at the SNP annual conference in Aberdeen, he said that “2025 must be on a shaky peg”.
With the Scottish Government forced to announce the latest delay in June this year, ahead of a planned March 2024 start date, Mr Fox said retailers had already started putting the necessary infrastructure for shoppers to return empty containers into stores and carparks.
“Almost everyone who has been involved so far has lost money,” Mr Fox said.
“It’s certainly in the several tens of millions of pounds in Scotland.”
His comments came as former business minister Ivan McKee told the event there are “a lot of unknowns to be thrashed out” before deposit return could be introduced in 2025.
The start date for the scheme was pushed back to coincide with when the UK Government hopes to introduce a similar initiative south of the border.
But Mr McKee said: “The history of this has been as deadlines have been approached they have then moved back. So I certainly wouldn’t say I’m confident.
“I’m not saying it won’t happen, but I’m saying there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of unknowns to be thrashed out before we get to that position.”
Fellow SNP MSP Collette Stevenson said that going forward the UK Government “have to be absolutely clear on their proposals on how they take this forward”.
She added: “As well as engagement with business, public awareness has to be really right up there in terms of how we approach it in terms of the lessons learned as well.”
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