8 October 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Scottish warning against ‘rash choices’ after DRS

Local authorities have been warned not to make any “rash choices” in response to a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), if such a scheme is implemented in England in the future.

Zero Waste Scotland have warned councils not to make “rash choices” in response to DRS

The cautious message was given by Paul Doherty, sector manager at Zero Waste Scotland, as he addressed the practicalities of DRS in a speech at the LARAC conference last week (2-3 October).

With Scotland set to introduce its own DRS in the near future, Mr Doherty explained the work being done by Zero Waste Scotland to ensure the waste management system north of the border can cope with the change.

Mr Doherty said: “The key thing we need to say to local authorities is not to make any rash choices.

“If a local authority moves services as a result of DRS they might be losing out when in a few years when Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) comes in.”

Kerbside collections

Zero Waste Scotland have carried out research with local authorities to assess how their services – particularly kerbside collections – will be impacted by DRS. “In-scope” materials – drinks bottles from 50ml to three litres made from PET, metal or glass – which are currently recycled at the kerbside will instead be largely recycled through DRS return points.

Paul Doherty of Zero Waste Scotland speaks at the LARAC conference 2019

“Local authorities are going to be left with HDPE, glass and some of the in-scope materials – some glass bottles, some PET bottles,” Mr Doherty explained.

“There is a challenge there for cost per household and we are going to work with local authorities to see what that cost might be.”

Mr Doherty suggested that councils may find they do not need as many vehicles or routes as they use currently if they are not collecting the same volume of materials.

He also noted that the current Defra consultation for the English DRS includes HDPE – which is mostly used to produce milk bottles – cutting down the materials local authorities collect further. Taking high value PET out of collections may also impact gate fees, he said.


Despite highlighting the uncertainties of DRS, Mr Doherty also raised awareness of the benefits Zero Waste Scotland believes it will have for councils.

“If a local authority moves services as a result of DRS they might be losing out when in a few years when Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) comes in.”

Paul Doherty, Zero Waste Scotland

Work by the organisation suggests that £5-10 million could be saved by councils through DRS. He also noted that there will be opportunities for local authorities to be a point of return and gain income for handling in-scope materials.

As well as acknowledging the delay of the Scottish landfill ban, Mr Doherty told the LARAC conference that DRS could see a 5% reduction in residual waste once it comes into force. By year three the scheme is aiming to achieve a 90% recycling rate.


Fran Witthuhn, EPR consultant at Sower Environmental, provided insight on implementing an EPR system, based on her work looking at European schemes.

She said: “The thing I have noticed most in new systems is that legislation and administration often comes before the actual infrastructure is in place.

“If the plan is to raise the costs and then hope that the cost will help to improve the infrastructure that is not going to work.”


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