Recycling row

Retailers demand DRS blueprint by end of month

Lorna Slater
Lorna Slater is under pressure to resolve issues over recycling scheme

Retailers have warned that Scottish shoppers face higher prices and reduced choice unless ongoing problems with the planned recycling scheme (DRS) are resolved.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) told Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater on Tuesday that the deposit return scheme will fail unless the government delivers a clear blueprint by the end of this month.

Businesses which sells drink cans or bottles will be required to introduce the scheme through which consumers reclaim 20p for every item returned. It is set for launch on 16 August but the SRC has warned that the sector is still unclear about its operation.

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

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the SRC, said: “We are alarmed at the failure of government and the bodies it has approved to provide the key information needed for retailers to build a workable return system. 

“We are already beyond reasonable deadlines for this scheme to land well in August. This is the critical moment, and we hope after a constructive meeting with the Circular Economy Minister, that the scheme can be put back on track.

“Unless the Scottish Government and its partners can deliver a complete operational blueprint by the end of February, covering the key information retailers need to deliver the necessary infrastructure for DRS to succeed, we do not believe the scheme can launch successfully in mid-August.

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

The latest concerns follow Innis & Gunn founder Dougal Sharp accusing operator Circularity Scotland of using extortion tactics to impose fees of up to £1.5m to bankroll the scheme.

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