Scotland's bottle deposit return scheme firm 'on brink of collapse'

The firm was in charge of the DRS which was due to start in March but has been delayed until 2025.

Circularity Scotland: Bottle deposit return scheme firm ‘on brink of collapse’ iStock

The company set up to manage Scotland’s controversial bottle deposit return scheme appears to be on the brink of collapse.

Staff have been sent home from Circularity Scotland and the board is unable to confirm if they will be paid for the month or if they will be able to return to the office.

The firm was in charge of the deposit return scheme (DRS) which was due to start in March but has been delayed until 2025.

In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, Circularity Scotland said its baord recognised it was an “extremely difficult time” for employees and was working “tirelessly to find a solution”.

The DRS was delayed after it failed to gain UK Government approval to include glass. The rollout will not take place until two years from October at the earliest.

Last week, Circularity Scotland’s chief executive David Harris said it was “absolutely ready to launch in March 2024 – even if glass is not included”.

It comes after companies invested heavily in preparation for the recycling scheme – including in setting up Circularity Scotland.

Circular economy minister Lorna Slater said the Scottish Government had been left with “no option” but to delay the DRS.

When asked what would happen to Circularity Scotland after it was revealed it would not begin work for more than two years, Slater said industry had to decide how it was “going to support” the firm.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said industry leaders had all agreed to take a “pragmatic approach” towards supporting the company.

A spokesperson for Circularity Scotland said: “The board of Circularity Scotland have been working to manage the impact of the Scottish government’s announcement and find a way for the business to continue to operate.

“While this work is ongoing, we instructed staff to go home on Thursday, June 8.

“The unfortunate reality is that, at this point, we are not able to confirm whether our staff will be paid for this month or whether they will be able to return to the office.

“The board recognises that this is an extremely difficult time for our people and is working tirelessly to find a solution.

“We have remained in communication with our staff throughout and will provide updates to them at the earliest possible time.”

Coca-Cola and Red Bull are among the drinks companies looking to claim money from the Scottish Government after being left “out of pocket” by the latest delay to the deposit return scheme.

The British Soft Drinks Association, which also represents Irn-Bru makers AG Barr and Britvic, is seeking “urgent discussion” on compensation for costs caused by the delay.

Tory MSP Maurice Golden said: “The SNP and Greens who have botched this scheme from the outset must have known this could happen.

“Now their inexcusable failure means good people face losing their jobs through no fault of their own.

“Lorna Slater has repeatedly failed to acknowledge her role in this farce, and it’s time for her to face up and take some responsibility.

“The Scottish Government has shrouded Circularity Scotland and the wider process in secrecy, and this is what happens when proper scrutiny and accountability cannot be applied.”

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