Scotland’s controversial deposit return scheme could be axed by the end of the month if the programme is not given the green light by the UK Government, according to the minister responsible for its delivery.
Lorna Slater admitted First Minister Humza Yousaf had written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to set a deadline for a decision on an exemption to the Internal Markets Act (IMA), without which, the flagship recycling plans cannot go ahead.
The Greens’ minister told attendees at the Scottish Grocers’ Federation conference that a lack of response could mean the scheme is “unviable” and would have to be shelved until a later date.
Circular economy minister Slater said she had hoped to receive the exemption by April 17, but Scottish ministers are yet to be granted clearance for its launch – which has already been pushed back from August 2023 to March 2024.
However Slater admitted “uncertainty” over when the rollout would be approved could see it canned altogether in its current state.
“The First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister last week, setting a deadline at the end of May,” she told the conference.
“So if we haven’t heard from them by the end of May, because of the concerns around the viability of the scheme going forward, we will have to make a proactive decision at that point as to whether the scene is viable or not to move forward.
“I can’t say exactly how that’s going to fall out. We’re still working very closely with the UK government to make that happen.
“You know, this is now at as high as you can go, this is the First Minister talking directly to the Prime Minister about this. It’s at the highest possible level. So I’m hoping to find out urgently.”
She added: “By the end of May, we’ll know one way or another.”
A 20p deposit would be added to all single-use drinks containers made of PET plastic, metal or glass. It applies to both alcoholic and soft drinks under the DRS.
Consumers would then get their money back by returning the container to retailers and hospitality premises that sell such single-use products to take away.
Retailers will accept items over the counter, while larger stores, shopping centres and community hubs will operate automated receiving points known as reverse vending machines (RVMs).
The DRS would have been the first of its kind in the UK but businesses in Scotland have expressed concerns over its rollout.
Industry figures argue it would impose potentially fatal costs on their business and create a trade barrier between England and Scotland, but environmental campaigners say it will cut carbon emissions and reduce litter.
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