Deposit return rollout 'must not be paused again' in bid to meet targets

Campaigners have warned the rollout of the container recycling proposals cannot face another delay with the scheme to go live a year late.

Scottish deposit return rollout ‘must not be paused again’ in bid to meet climate targets iStock

Campaigners have demanded the Scottish Government stick to their promise to launch the plastic bottle return scheme in 2023 – despite more than a year of delays.

The deposit return scheme (DRS), which will see shoppers charged a retrievable 20p levy on single use drinks containers, was due to be launched in July 2022, but that was scrapped after an independent review deemed it “unviable” because of the pandemic.

The rollout was instead pushed back until next August following several pilot schemes in certain parts of the country.

But environmental activists say they fear the launch being mothballed amid increasing pressure from the food and drink sector after 500 figures signed an open letter to circular economy minister Lorna Slater calling for it to be paused again.

Kim Pratt, campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, insisted the policy would “incentivise” some industries to make more environmentally friendly products.

She added: “The environmental benefits of a Scottish deposit return scheme are clear for everyone to see, with millions of tonnes of climate-changing emissions saved over the coming decades, plus a huge reduction in littering and better recycling facilities for all.

“But industry wants to kick the can down the road with calls for more delays on timescales they have already committed to.”

It comes after world leaders met in Egypt for the COP27 conference – a year on from the summit being hosted in Glasgow.

Catherine Gemmell, Scotland conservation officer for the Marine Conservation Society, said that DRS “can’t come soon enough for Scottish seas”.

At the organisation’s Great British Beach Clean this year she said a “shocking 93% of Scottish beaches cleared and surveyed were polluted with drinks-related litter” – adding that on average, more than 30 bottles, cans, caps and lids were recorded per 100 metres of surveyed beach.

She said: “By the time our volunteers are back out again for International Coastal Clean Up day next year the Scottish deposit system will be well under way.

“We expect to see a big decrease in the amount of bottles and cans reported in the years ahead.”

Slater said there were no plans for further delays to the rollout.

She added: “Scotland’s deposit return scheme will recycle billions of bottles and cans a year and forms a vital part of our plans to create a circular economy.

“It will cut climate emissions, tackle littering, and directly address public concerns about the impact of plastic and other waste on our environment.

“Currently, Scotland recycles around 50% of drink containers. Our deposit return scheme aims to increase this to 90%, placing it among the world’s top performing schemes.”