Scotland’s bottle and can return deposit scheme is set to be delayed again, just days after the government announced a ban on single-use plastics.
The scheme, which would be a first in the UK, was due to be implemented in July 2022 after the original start date in April this year was shifted.
It could be delayed until March 2023, with environmental campaigners accusing the Scottish Government of breaking promises.
Introducing the scheme in 2022 was an SNP manifesto commitment.
It was in our manifesto. The deposit return scheme has been delayed repeatedly by @scotgov. It needs doing.— Lorna Slater (@lornaslater) May 29, 2021
Co-leader of the Scottish Greens Lorna Slater, who was appointed minister for circular economy in August after striking a deal with the government, is due to update parliament on Wednesday.
Great British Beach Clean volunteers found 92% of beaches surveyed in Scotland were littered with glass bottles, cans and single-use plastic drinks containers this year.
Catherine Gemmell, Scotland conservation officer for the Marine Conservation Society, said: “The sad reality is that our volunteers are still picking up bottle after bottle, and can after can on Scottish beaches.
“After celebrating single use plastic bans during COP26 surely Scottish Government wouldn’t go back on their most substantial circular economy promise the week after the world leaves Glasgow?
“Our ocean deserves better and we demand that promises are kept, otherwise what hope is there that this government will deliver anything to meet the climate and ocean emergency?”
Under the scheme, shoppers pay an additional 20p charge when buying drinks in cans and bottles and these fees are refunded when they return the empties for recycling.
Slater previously told MSPs that the Scottish Government recognised the “significant impact that Covid-19 and the UK’s exit from the European Union have had on the drinks industry and other sectors with responsibility for delivering Scotland’s deposit return scheme”.
Greenpeace UK said delaying the “vital” environmental scheme was not good enough, especially after Scotland hosted COP26.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the agreement made at the climate summit in Glasgow did not go far enough while Scottish Greens co-leader and government minister Patrick Harvie branded it a “failure”.
Nina Schrank, senior plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “It’s shocking to see the Scottish government once again choosing to delay the long awaited deposit return scheme until 2023, while continuing to spout fine words about environmental protection.
“If Nicola Sturgeon’s government wants its green credentials to be taken seriously, it needs to start turning words into actions: more delay means plastic pollution continues to devastate people and planet, and her words ring hollow. Our planet can’t afford many more broken promises and delays like this.”
A ban on most single-use plastics will come into effect in Scotland from June next year.
Slater said the government was “turning promise into action” by banning most problematic plastics.
A spokesperson said the Scottish Government remained fully committed to implementing the deposit return scheme to help meet the country’s “world leading” climate targets.
“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”, they said.
“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.
“The minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity will provide an update to parliament and businesses on Wednesday, November 17.”