A disagreement over the inclusion of glass bottles in Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers could potentially lead to the scheme’s collapse. The UK government has decided against including glass bottles, causing concerns that the Scottish scheme, originally planned for launch in August 2023, may not proceed. The revised launch date is now set for March next year, but without glass bottles. It is increasingly likely that Scotland will join the UK-wide scheme when it commences in 2025.
Many small businesses in Scotland have made significant investments in preparation for the scheme, including installing reverse vending machines capable of collecting containers and issuing vouchers. Mo Razzaq, a shop owner and Labour councillor in Glasgow, told Sky News that he spent over £10,000 on creating a dedicated space for the machine in his store. Razzaq, who is also the vice president of the Federation of Independent Retailers, spent £15,000 on the machine, which can separate aluminium and steel cans, plastic, and glass.
“We were told all along that that is what is going to be included. This is the machine we were specified was required so that’s what we purchased.”
If the scheme proceeds without glass, Razzaq and other business owners will face financial losses, as their machines would need to be changed to plastic and can-only devices. The UK government confirmed this week that the deposit return scheme can proceed, but stated that there is “insufficient justification” for including glass bottles.
In response, Scottish ministers claimed that devolution is “under sustained attack”. First Minister Humza Yousaf said on Thursday: “We’ve seen the UK government determined to ride roughshod over a measure to improve recycling and dramatically reduce litter, by seeking to sabotage regulations that this parliament passed on bottle and can recycling and that is simply unacceptable.”
Colin Borland, director of Devolved Nations, commented: “Smaller producers have suffered weeks and months of uncertainty following the saga of the DRS already, so this latest plot twist won’t be setting any of their minds at ease.”
He added that while waiting for the Scottish government to decide on the scheme’s future, it is crucial for decision-makers to enable small businesses to plan with confidence and a full understanding of what is required, ensuring their role in making the scheme a success.
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