Changes & Challenges Ahead for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme

Repeatedly delayed and now a further change of date till next year, Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme has continued to face problems in getting going despite most people thinking it is a good idea.

Humza Yousaf and Lorna Slater at meeting
First Minister Humza Yousaf and Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater hosted a meeting on 20th April 2023 with business representatives to discuss working together towards a successful launch of the deposit return scheme

In his statement to Parliament on a ‘Fresh Start’, First Minister Humza Yousaf announced a new date for the scheme to commence and now businesses have until January 2024 to register. Delayed Deposit Return Scheme

Further changes to the scheme have been set out by Lorna Slater, Circular Economy Minister in the Scottish Government. It is hoped that these will overcome some of the significant challenges that small producers were being faced with.

  • drinks containers of under 100ml will be excluded, removing miniatures and other smaller containers from the scheme
  • products that sell fewer than 5,000 units per year will be excluded, which will particularly benefit craft producers
  • all hospitality premises that sell the large majority of their drinks products for consumption on the premises will be exempt from acting as a return point
  • the online application process for retailers to apply for an exemption from providing a return point has been simplified

These most recent changes will require the approval of the Scottish Parliament but meanwhile the UK Government is dragging its feet over the scheme being excluded from the UK Internal Market.

What is this about?

Alistair Jack who is the Secretary of State for Scotland for the UK Government has not yet provided an agreement with the Scottish Government to exclude the scheme from the UK Internal Market. It has been suggested that this  would create a trade ‘barrier’ between Scotland and England as it would require different prices to be charged for the same product on each side of the border.

The UK Government has announced that it intends introducing a Deposit Return Scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2025. It is well behind Scotland in being able to do this. Why it is not doing all it can in supporting Scotland to introduce its scheme is mystifying.

In Scotland, introducing a threshold of 5,000 units per year will remove many craft drinks and limited edition products from the scheme. This is estimated to be 0.5% of articles but will in turn remove the need for around 44% of businesses to apply a deposit to their products.

It is a comprise made by the Scottish Government but perhaps now the Scheme which has a lot of support in Scotland can move forward.

Commenting Lorna Slater said:

“Scotland’s deposit return scheme will reduce litter on our streets, massively increase the recycling of drinks containers and help meet our net zero ambitions.

“However, to realise these benefits DRS needs to be delivered in a way that works for businesses, especially for small drinks producers. The changes I have set out will make the scheme easier for industry to deliver – especially for craft producers – while still making sure the vast majority of drinks containers are captured for recycling.

“To move forward with certainty, the UK Government must stop delaying the long overdue exclusion from the Internal Market Act. This damaging Act was imposed on the Scottish Parliament after Brexit without its consent and creates confusion and uncertainty for businesses.

“After that Act was passed, we engaged in good faith, following the agreed process, and have done so for nearly two years now to agree an exclusion. The UK Government needs to at long last issue an exclusion, and recognise the right of the Scottish Parliament to enact legislation in devolved areas without interference.”

When the UK left the world’s largest free trade area – the EU – it then set up its own trading area called the UK Internal Market – with of course the big exception being Northern Ireland.

Click on this link to find out more about the UK Internal Market Act and the exclusions which already apply. There are differences already applied towards Northern Ireland.

Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. What evidence exists that RECYCLABLE glass, plastics and cans are the cause of litter problems? Also what will happen to the current recycling of glass, plastics and cans by Council doorstep collection or recycling bins? If Council systems not are to continue, will there be a reduction in Council Tax? Who will supply the bins to collect non recyclable glass, plastic and cans and who will collect those bins at what cost? What exactly is the problem with the current recycling that the DRS will cure?

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