Zero Waste Scotland to assess options

Bottle return ‘will add to costs’ say retailers

recycling binRetailers have expressed concern over plans to introduce a deposit scheme for bottles, saying it would be an unnecessary addition to costs.

The Scottish Government has asked Zero Waste Scotland to investigate the merits of such a scheme to reduce litter. It would most likely involve a small deposit that is fully refundable once the empty bottle is returned.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has confirmed Zero Waste Scotland will investigate design options and the associated costs and benefits of how a deposit return scheme could operate.

She said: “Clearly there are a number of issues for the Scottish Government to consider when it comes to deposit return schemes that can only be addressed by carrying out work to understand the design of a potential system. I have asked Zero Waste Scotland to start this work.

“Progress will be overseen by a steering group involving representatives from the packaging industry, retailers and environmental groups, and followed by a full public consultation to ensure we are as well-informed as possible before any decisions are made.”

The proposal has received support from Scottish Labour whose environment and climate change spokesperson Claudia Beamish MSP said: “This is a great step forward. We need to do more to reduce waste in Scotland. That’s why Labour wants to see plastic bottle deposit schemes across Scotland.

“It will be important to ensure that there is assessment of the need for any exemptions as well arrangements for shared collection points for rural areas. I look forward to to seeing the model that Zero Waste Scotland produce.”

Businesses, however, are more concerned about the added burdens, including storage and costs.

Colin Borland, FSB’s head of devolved nations, said: “FSB has substantial concerns about how a deposit and return scheme would work for smaller retailers who don’t have the storage space of their larger competitors. 

Colin Borland 2
Colin Borland

“Further, it isn’t clear to us how this system would interact with the existing domestic and non-domestic waste systems. Where would such a scheme leave the significant investment that has been made in comprehensive kerbside recycling in recent years?

“Aside from these practical worries, this is not the right time to be drawing up plans to increase small retailers’ costs and eat up more of their time with new regulations.

“With inflation on the increase, the high street under pressure and margins squeezed, you need to ask whether this really is the right priority to be pursuing.”

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, SRC head of policy and external affairs, said: “Scottish retailers face an incredibly uncertain economic situation right now.

“That has been exacerbated by the Scottish Government’s unwelcome and unhelpful decision to continue investigating this unnecessary, anachronistic, and expensive deposit proposal.

“Further investigation won’t change the facts. We know consumers will be hit up front with a higher initial cost for every drinks container – a cost which is never recovered due to the necessity to buy further drinks.

“That cost is increased every time a customer is unable to return a drinks container to a store, which will add up to tens of millions each year.

“We know this scheme will be hugely expensive for retailers, costing tens of millions to install reverse vending machines, cannibalising profitable floor space for unprofitable waste machines, disrupting operations and hugely inconveniencing customers.

“In fact, the costs are clear. What is still uncertain is whether such a scheme will significantly improve overall recycling rates.

“The Scottish government should be focusing on delivering the Household Recycling Charter and making a success of our existing kerbside recycling system. It’s a pity they’ve fumbled the chance to toss this unfair, outdated concept into the rubbish bin.”

> The FSB has also criticised local authorities over what it calls “badly managed local parking facilities”, arguing that they are hampering efforts to turn around Scotland’s high streets.

Citing evidence that three Scottish councils are generating tens of millions of pounds of revenue from parking, even after subtracting their costs, the small business campaign group wants the Scottish Government to step in.  

In a submission to Transport Scotland, the small business campaign group argues that good local parking is required to sustain a healthy local high street. They argue that if shoppers cannot access affordable and accessible parking, they’re more likely to go online or visit an out-of-town mall. 

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “If it isn’t cheap and convenient to visit a high street or town centre, people won’t bother. Two thirds of working families have a car – we need to design our local places with these people in mind.”

Figures collated by the RAC Foundation show that, once local authorities subtract their running costs, Edinburgh City Council generated £19.4m from parking in financial year 2015/16, Glasgow City Council made £12.6m and Aberdeen City Council £4.9m.

FSB suggests that a stronger link should be established between parking income, roads maintenance and high street regeneration – highlighting figures from Audit Scotland that a third of Scotland’s local roads are in an unacceptable condition. 

FSB also argues that poor parking facilities – amongst other factors – are key reasons why it remains difficult to retain and attract large public and private organisations in our towns. For example, poor local parking was repeatedly cited in relation to the decision to close local courts in Scotland. 

Mr Willox said: “We want more public services – like GP surgeries and government offices – on our high streets. The future of the high street lies in having a mix of sectors that attract a broader range of customers or clients.  But our parking policies are standing in the way of that change.” 

The small business campaign group also makes the case for smarter parking systems – highlighting the difficulties which Scottish councils had adapting to the new £1 coin. They also support ticketless parking systems, which could reduce running costs and help incentivise visitors to visit local traders.

Mr Willox said: “21st century parking should not mean rattling around the glove compartment for change. Wherever possible, paying for parking should be as easy as sending a text message.”

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