Future of deposit return scheme uncertain as glass inclusion blocked

Yousaf earlier said in a letter to the PM that a failure to revoke the conditions would put the scheme in 'grave danger'.

Future of Scotland’s deposit return scheme uncertain as glass inclusion blocked by UK Government iStock

The deadline for the removal of UK Government conditions on Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) has expired, with the First Minister’s bid to include glass blocked.

Last week, UK ministers approved a partial exemption to the Internal Market Act for the deposit scheme, but stipulated glass cannot be involved north of the border.

Humza Yousaf set the deadline of 6pm on Monday in a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday, saying a failure to revoke the condition would put the DRS in “grave danger”.

He claimed the UK Government demands, which include the removal of glass, would have a detrimental impact on businesses in Scotland and threaten the viability of the scheme.

Under the new changes, only PET plastic bottles, and aluminium and steel cans will be included.

Similar UK-wide schemes are not set to start until 2025 and do not include glass bottles.

The Monday deadline was set to allow for the Scottish Cabinet to discuss a response on Tuesday during its regular weekly meeting and provide an update to Holyrood.

Michael Gove, Alister Jack and Thérèse Coffey have now written a letter confirming to the Yousaf they will not grant an exemption to the terms of the Internal Market Act.

The ministers said there was “nothing to prevent” Scotland launching its own scheme in March next year, without the inclusion of glass.

They wrote: “In your letter of June 2, you note that Scottish businesses may face a competitive disadvantage due to the exclusion of glass from the scheme.

“Interoperability of schemes across the whole UK ensures all manufacturers, whether in Clydebank, Carlisle, Cardiff, or Carrickfergus, have the same access to sell their products across the UK internal market.

“The exclusion of glass also ensures consumer choice is not restricted in Scotland, given the risk that differences in scope would have led to some producers choosing not to supply Scotland through online or physical sales.

“As we have granted a UKIM exclusion, there is nothing to prevent you from proceeding with your own scheme next March, on the basis that it would form part of a UK-wide solution to protect our shared market and increase recycling from 2025.”

If it goes ahead as planned in 2024, Scotland’s DRS would see a 20p charge placed on drinks containers which would be refunded to consumers upon their return in a bid to increase recycling levels.

Speaking to reporters at a meeting of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry earlier on Monday, Yousaf said it would be “extremely difficult” to go ahead with DRS plans if glass was not included.

He said: “It’s extremely difficult because not only do you look at whether or not CSL (Circularity Scotland Ltd) are able to get the drawdown of funding, we have to look at what the impact is going to be on Scottish businesses, on their jobs, on their investment, on the price of their product.

“That is all issues that we have to factor in.”

He continued: “We don’t know whether the UK-wide scheme is going to happen. However, the date of October 2025 is for the birds.

“The Government haven’t pushed ahead with the appropriate regulations, let alone the scheme provider.”

He also denied his Government has misrepresented the views of brewing company Tennent’s on the issue.

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