Could the new DRS mean higher prices for Scottish shoppers?
Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme is set to be a major milestone in the fight against plastic pollution, but retailers state it could have unintended consequences unless it's properly implemented.
The Scottish Government plans to help tackle climate change, reduce litter and increase the number of single-use containers collected for recycling with its new deposit return scheme (DRS). The system is simple - when you purchase a drink in an eligible single-use container, you'll pay a 20p deposit. Then, once you've finished, simply take the empty cup or bottle back to a collection point to claim your 20p refund. This green initiative is designed to incentivise consumers to actively engage in more eco-friendly behaviour.
So, if you are a hospitality business in Scotland selling drinks in a single-use container made from PET plastic, glass, steel or aluminium and sized between 50ml and 3 litres (otherwise known as scheme articles), you must register for the scheme. You will also have legal responsibilities that you must comply with under The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020. These are called retailer obligations and will differ slightly depending on your operating model.
While this scheme is hoped to bring various environmental benefits, retailers have warned that Scottish shoppers could face higher prices and less choice when buying drinks if the project isn't adequately prepared for. The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has called upon ministers to produce a detailed blueprint for businesses by the end of this month to avoid significant issues with the launch on August 16th. They also added that businesses have already spent around £250m preparing for the arrival of this scheme. However, they are struggling to make their final decisions due to an unclear system.
This week, retailers had the opportunity to meet with Lorna Slater, the Scottish Government's Minister for Circular Economics, who is responsible for the scheme, to voice their concerns. Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Deputy Head of the SRC, said businesses want this scheme to succeed and appreciate its environmental impacts. However, he added, "We are alarmed at the failure of the Government and the bodies it has approved to provide the key information needed for retailers to build a workable return system. He continued: "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."
In reply, a Scottish Government spokesman said: "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."
How have you been affected by the scheme? Do you think it's a good idea, or are you against it? Drop us a line below, and we'll feature your thoughts in our follow-up story.