Scottish deposit return system passed by Parliament

The regulations to establish a deposit return system (DRS) have been voted into law by the Scottish Parliament.

The scheme is ‘all-in’ and will see a 20 pence cash deposit placed on many single-use drinks containers in Scotland. All drinks containers above 50 millilitres and up to 3 litres are included for steel, glass, aluminium and PET plastic.

After pushing back the date to go live due to the coronavirus pandemic, originally April 2021, from the 1 July 2022 the deposit placed on containers can be redeemed when the used product is returned to a retailer, returning containers over the counter or by using a reverse vending machine (RVM). Deposits will be returned in the form of cash or tokens and stores containers. 

In order to make the scheme as wide reaching and accessible as possible, there will be more than 17,000 return points across the country. It has been suggested, from research conducted by Zero Waste Scotland, that DRS could result in almost 11 million fewer plastic bottles littered every year in Scotland and a 90 per cent reduction in litter for the materials included in the scheme. 

Industry concerns 

Various industry bodies raised concerns over the introduction of the ‘all-in’ approach affecting preferences of packaging materials.  

Rick Hindley, executive director of aluminium industry body Alupro, said: “Their time scale looks very ambitious at a time of such uncertainty, when we don’t know how Covid-19 will affect how and where drinks are consumed.”

He said the 20p charge would create an anomaly where a 24 can pack of drinks would attract a £4.80 but the same volume bought in four two-litre plastic bottles only 80p, which could reduce demand for cans and increase the number of plastic bottles used. 

Meanwhile, upon the passing of the legislation, British Glass reiterated its position that glass should be excluded from the DRS, though maintaining that it will work with the Scottish Government to “minimise the damage to the Scottish glass industry”. Dave Dalton, British Glass CEO said: “We continue to believe an alternative Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) model would increase the recycling rates of glass, be more cost-effective and offer double the CO2 savings than a DRS in Scotland.”

UK committed to DRS

The UK government is keen to follow suit, committing to implementing a DRS by 2023 in England and Wales. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said it will ‘work with the devolved administrations to accomplish a coherent UK-wide approach’, suggesting the UK could follow Scotland’s model with all materials included in the DRS.  

Martin Trigg-Knight, Head of Packaging at Clarity Environmental, commented that the Scottish DRS is a positive move to encourage recycling on-the-go: “Having further incentives for consumers to get materials into the correct recycling stream is a positive step towards a more circular economy. We share industry concerns about the effect of an all-in DRS system on packaging material preferences but hope that the consultations, expected to take place later this year, will allow us to have these concerns heard and addressed by governing bodies.”

Future-proof with Clarity Environmental

We are encouraging our packaging compliance members to consider making changes to packaging now to avoid the future costs of inaction. We can help by looking at your data, the packaging you use and the opportunities for reducing the impact of packaging. If you are concerned that future changes to extended producer responsibility will impact your business get in touch to find out how our team can help you prepare. 

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