Scotland's deposit return scheme delayed until 2025 at the earliest 

The flagship recycling rollout has been postponed again after Westminster failed to grant approval for glass to be included.

Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) has been delayed again until 2025 following the failure to gain UK Government approval to include glass in the flagship recycling plan.

The rollout will now not take place until two years from October at the earliest after Westminster denied a full exemption to the Internal Markets Act (IMA) for the inclusion of the material in the Scottish version of the plans.

Circular economy minister Lorna Slater said the Scottish Government had been left with “no option” but to park the scheme based on those terms, which First Minister Humza Yousaf previously branded a “democratic outrage”.

The DRS – managed by Circularity Scotland – was due to be introduced in March next year, a date that was already pushed back from August of 2023 to allow the drinks industry to put measures in place for its rollout.

But Scottish secretary Alister Jack repeatedly said that the inclusion of glass was a condition of Westminster supporting the project.

A partial exemption to the IMA was approved by the UK Government last week, but not one for glass containers.

Slater said it was clear, under those conditions, that the scheme would not be ready to meet the March deadline.

“While Circularity Scotland has been optimistic that the scheme could go ahead without glass, the overwhelming feedback from producers, retailers and hospitality is that they cannot prepare for a March launch based on the changes being required by the UK Government without any certainty even about what those changes would be,” she told Holyrood on Wednesday.

“And since the delivery of DRS is an industry led project, these views are critical. Today the First Minister and I heard that industry, in turn, recognises the enormous amount of work carried out by their body Circularity Scotland on their behalf and acknowledges the case for sustaining a delivery vehicle for the DRS to come.

“As of today, it is now clear that we have been left with no other option than to delay the launch of Scotland’s DRS, until October 2025 at the earliest based on the UK Government’s current stated aspirations.”

Yousaf previously set a deadline of 6pm on Monday, June 5 in a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday, saying a failure to revoke the condition would put the DRS in “grave danger”.

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

Shoppers would pay a 20p deposit on products sold in those containers, but would receive that levy back if they took them to an approved machine to be recycled.

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

Despite the delay, Slater said she remained committed to rolling out the DRS.

She added: “This Parliament voted for a Deposit Return Scheme. I am committed to a Deposit Return Scheme. Scotland will have a Deposit Return Scheme.

“It will come later than need be. It will be more limited than it should be. More limited than Parliament voted for. More limited than I want, that other devolved nations wanted and that even the Tories in the last election wanted.

“And these delays and dilutions lie squarely in the hands of UK Government that has sadly seemed so far more intent on sabotaging this Parliament than protecting our environment.”

‘We need a scheme that works for everyone’

Helen Stewart, gin distiller for Ballintaggart, urged the Scottish Government to use the delay to go back to the drawing board and design a scheme “that works for everyone”.

“When you actually look at who’s been consulted on developing DRS, it’s very large companies like Coca-Cola and their business structure is completely different from smaller companies,” she told STV News.

Gin distiller Helen Stewart said the scheme had to work for businesses of all sizes.

“It needs to be a scheme that works for everyone.”

Scottish Licensed Trade Association managing director, Colin Wilkinson, added he was “pleased” the Scottish Government had listened to businesses.

He added: “We’ve been pushing to have glass excluded and to have a UK-wide scheme ever since this first came into being. So, we are very pleased to see the government’s actually listened.

“There’s still many, many concerns with the scheme we have in Scotland and I think that will give us more time to get something that works for everybody.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said the scheme had already “failed before the UK Government intervened,” branding the process “a shambles”.

He said: “It’s important something is salvaged from the wreckage of a disastrous scheme, and this belated clarity offers businesses what they want: a scheme that works across the UK.

“Just days ago, Lorna Slater and Humza Yousaf were indulging in reckless scaremongering – threatening to scrap the scheme if glass wasn’t included.

“The First Minister had either been using glass as an excuse to ditch the scheme, or he didn’t know what he was talking about. Lorna Slater refused to say which it was – but that’s no surprise, as she’s been unable to answer simple questions on this shambles from day one.” 

‘We have done right by the scheme’

The FM accused the UK Government of “sabotaging” the rollout.

Humza Yousaf accused the UK Government of making 'unreasonable demands'.

Yousaf added that “unreasonable demands” set out by his Westminster counterparts would have put Scottish businesses at a “competitive” disadvantage.

However, he refused to be drawn on potential claims of compensation from firms that had already invested in preparation for the scheme.

“This lies squarely at the door of the UK Government,” he said.

“We have done right, not just by the scheme, but by the regulations passed by this parliament. It is the UK Government that has injected not just unreasonable demands, but uncertainty into the scheme.”

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