Scotland’s deposit return scheme will be further pushed back until August 2023, the Scottish Government has announced.
It follows several delays to the roll-out of the scheme, which had been scheduled for April this year.
The date was then put back until July 2022, but it will now be delayed by a further year.
An independent review considered the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the scheme, which will see shoppers pay 20p for drinks in cans and bottles, with the money returned to them when they return the empty containers for recycling.
The Government had also faced calls to delay the scheme a further year by some businesses amidst concerns the food and drink sector is not ready for it.
Circular economy minister Lorna Slater described the conclusion of the review that the 2022 start date was no longer feasible as “disappointing but understandable”.
“This will be the first scheme of its kind in the UK and one of the most environmentally ambitious and accessible in Europe,” said the Scottish Green minister.
“Implementing a scheme on this scale is a massive national undertaking involving tens of thousands of producers and retailers.
“Given the challenges that the pandemic and Brexit have placed upon these businesses, it is disappointing but understandable that the independent review concluded the original start date was no longer feasible.”
Slater pointed to the Scottish Government’s publication of a plan for delivery, including milestones ahead of the scheme’s implementation.
She said: “Despite calls to water down the scheme by removing materials or waiting for other nations to catch up, we have maintained our ambition and ensured that the scheme will still meet its original target of achieving 90% collection rates by 2024.
“We have also published a clear plan for delivery, with critical milestones on the path to full implementation. These include use of return points on a voluntary basis by retailers from November 2022.
“I am also delighted that Orkney will go early in offering a return scheme, which will provide benefits to the local community and recycling.”
Scottish Labour’s net zero, energy and transport spokesperson Colin Smyth hit out at the Government over the further delay to the scheme.
“The government are trying to pin this shambles on anything they can, but the truth is blame lies at squarely at their own feet,” said Smyth.
“The SNP were warned time and time again about the problems piling up around the scheme, but they buried their head in the sand, failing to provide the most basic answers to small businesses about how it would work in practice.
“Now they have passed this mess over to the Greens, whose environmentalist credentials are looking shakier by the day.”
He added: “Despite all these delays, the minister (Slater) gave us no real answers, no real solutions, and no real confidence in the latest timescales.
“This is just the latest in a growing list of failed environmental policies and missed targets from the SNP-Green government. This record of incompetence casts serious doubt on their ability to meet our crucial net-zero targets.”
Greenpeace UK also criticised the decision to push back the scheme until next year.
On Twitter, they wrote: “Scotland’s deposit return scheme is delayed yet again.. it’s bewildering that implementing this policy, which is already widespread across Europe, is taking so long.
“Each delay = more litter, more landfill & more wildlife being harmed.
“Governments in Holyrood & across the UK need to stand up for the environment & stand up to uncompromising industry lobbying!
“They need to get on with putting key measures like deposit return systems in place & swiftly introduce significant plastic reduction targets.”