Scotland's deposit return scheme in 'last chance saloon', retailers warn

Shoppers face major disruption when the scheme launches in August, the Scottish Retail Consortium has warned.

Scotland’s deposit return scheme will fail without clear blueprint, retailers warn Animaflora via iStock

Retailers have warned the launch of Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) will fail if ministers do not deliver a clear blueprint.

In crunch talks with circular economy minister Lorna Slater on Monday, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) warned that shoppers face major disruption when the scheme launches in August.

Every business operating in Scotland which sells drink cans or bottles will be required to introduce a takeback system.

But industry leaders warn consumers will face higher prices and reduced choices if the Scottish Government fails to set out a clear plan on how to deliver the scheme.

The consortium estimates that retailers have invested more than £250m this year on purchasing and installing reverse vending machines, changing prices and IT systems – however, a lack of clarity on how the scheme will work is holding back further investment.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the SRC, had urged Ms Slater to provide a complete, operational blueprint by the end of February.

Failure to do so will result in the scheme’s failure to successfully launch by the mid-August target, he said.

“If these issues cannot be resolved, then, Scottish consumers will pay the price,” he added.

“Shoppers will face a bewildering patchwork of approaches which will be difficult to understand with the process of returning drinks and retrieving deposits likely to be cumbersome.

“Customers will also face the consequences of retailers having to simplify their offering to attempt to be compliant, which is likely to mean reduced choice and potentially higher prices.

“This is the last chance saloon to deliver a successful Scottish DRS which will land well with consumers in 2023.

“Retailers will do everything they can to try and resolve these issues over the coming weeks, but it falls to the Scottish Government to deliver a coherent and comprehensive plan for the scheme by the end of February.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We must take bold and ambitious action to tackle the climate emergency. Scotland’s deposit return scheme will be a major part of our efforts to reduce littering, cut emissions, and build a more circular economy when it goes live on August 16 this year.

“Similar schemes are common in other European countries and have been shown to be very effective.

“The regulations that were passed by parliament in 2020 task industry with delivery of the scheme. We are supporting this and will continue to work with Circularity Scotland and businesses as they finalise their operational delivery plans.

“The Scottish Government has committed to a pragmatic approach to implementation and we have already taken action to make the scheme as efficient as possible and reduce costs. The steps we have taken were in direct response to concerns put to us by retailers.”

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