8 May 2019 by Will Date

Scotland confirms ‘all-in’ Deposit Return Scheme

Scotland’s cabinet secretary for the environment, Roseanna Cunningham, has today (8 May) outlined the Scottish Government’s proposals for a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers.

As reported by letsrecycle.com last week, the plans centre on an ‘all-in’ deposit scheme model, including all PET plastic drinks bottles, aluminium and steel cans and glass bottles – with a deposit level set at 20p (see letsrecycle.com story).

Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham outlined details of the DRS in the Scottish Parliament today

HDPE milk bottles will not be included in the DRS, although could be added at a later date. Glass has been included despite concerns raised by retailers and the glass industry.

Ms Cunningham announced details of the proposed DRS in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon with legislation to be introduced mandating the scheme later this year. It is anticipated that the DRS would then come into effect in 2020.

She told MSPs that the DRS would be overseen by a not-for-profit organisation which will be set up by soft drinks producers and retailers. All retailers selling drinks to consumers will be required to participate in the DRS.

‘Scale and scope’

Announcing the details today, the Cabinet Secretary, said: “Scotland was the first part of the UK to commit to a deposit return scheme as part of our wider efforts to prevent discarded drinks containers from ending up in our streets and seas, and is now the first to outline its design – one that is ambitious in scale and scope, and which gives the people of Scotland a clear and straightforward way to do their bit for the environment.

A deposit of 20p will be paid upon the purchase of a drink under the Scottish DRS

“There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations. I am therefore delighted to confirm that I intend to implement a system covering PET – the most common form of plastic packaging – aluminum [sic] and steel cans, and glass, with a deposit refund set at 20p.”

Scotland is the first UK administration to outline its proposals for a DRS – with an ongoing consultation on the introduction of the measure in England, Wales and Northern Ireland due to close this week. Ministers will then consider the wider introduction and design of a DRS elsewhere in the UK.

‘Leadership and ambition’

Responding to the Scottish Government announcement, the lobby group Campaign to Protect Rural England has said that the country is showing ‘leadership and ambition’ in its plans for the DRS and urged the UK government to adopt a similar DRS blueprint.

Samantha Harding, litter programme director at CPRE, said: “We wholeheartedly congratulate the Scottish government on making this landmark decision. By introducing a deposit return system for glass, plastic and metal drinks containers it has taken a significant step in tackling the problem of packaging pollution – one that has resulted in devastating consequences for our countryside and environment for far too long.

“On this side of the border, we will be urging environment secretary Michael Gove to build on Scotland’s ambition and go one better, by making sure every drinks carton is also included within England’s deposit system.”

“A successful DRS, working within a wider comprehensive strategy to reduce waste could herald an opportunity to drive further increases in recycling and reduce litter, over and above the existing kerbside system.”

Andrew Opie

However, the British Retail Consortium has reacted more cautiously to the news – instead suggesting that a DRS should be implemented after proposed reforms to the producer responsibility system for packaging have been fully assessed.

Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at BRC, said: “We believe the government should first implement changes to Extended Producer Responsibility whereby businesses will pay the full cost of recycling household packaging, supported by a consistent household collection across the whole of the UK. As a result, retailers will pay significantly more towards the cost of recycling.

“Following these changes, the government should assess how a DRS can be used to plug any remaining gaps. A successful DRS, working within a wider comprehensive strategy to reduce waste could herald an opportunity to drive further increases in recycling and reduce litter, over and above the existing kerbside system.”


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