Scotland deposit refund scheme: Lorna Slater insists the plan is ready

Scotland deposit refund scheme: Lorna Slater insists the plan is ready

Circular economy Minister Lorna Slater said ‘all systems are in place’ for the initiative, despite warnings from producers that a ‘large number’ of smaller drinks companies may stop selling their products in Scotland.

She held what was described as an “urgent meeting” with small drinks businesses on Friday, with the minister pledging to consider what further support they could be given.

Holyrood, however, has heard concerns that some companies may exit business following the program, while hundreds of leading figures from the food, drink and hospitality industry sent an open letter to Ms Slater last November calling for the initiative to be put on hold so that she can be revised.

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Chris Jones, managing director of Manchester-based Paragon Brands, said there were a “multitude of costs” resulting from the deposit return system.

Businesses may have to have different labels and barcodes for products sold in Scotland and those sold in the rest of the UK – where a separate scheme is not expected to come into effect until 2025.

And Mr Jones, speaking on the BBC Radio Scottish program Good Morning Scotland said: ‘I am part of a wider drinks forum group of around 300 small producers and it is fair to say that there are a large number of small producers who have simply taken the option to stop selling in Scotland.

“The complications, cost and complexity of setting up this program just means the business returns aren’t there.”


This runs the risk that businesses will not be able to afford to trade in Scotland after the deposit system comes into force on August 16.

This will mean fewer products to choose from for shoppers north of the border, with Mr Jones estimating there could be “somewhere in the region of 40%” fewer drink brands available.

Ms Slater said there were “a relatively small number of small producers who still have concerns” about the scheme.

But with producers due to sign up for the deposit system before the end of February, she added that the Scottish Government and Circularity Scotland – which will implement the system – were working with those companies.

Asked if the return of deposits would come into effect from August 16 as planned, the Minister replied: “Absolutely all systems are in place for the deposit return system in Scotland.”

The move will mean shoppers in Scotland will pay an extra 20 pence when buying canned or bottled drinks, which will then be returned to them when they return the empty container for recycling.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Ms Slater continued: ‘Our scheme is very similar to successful schemes around the world which increase recycling but also reduce litter on our streets.

“We have to do something about it and the deposit system is our answer to that.”

She said she was ‘really proud’ that Scotland was the first part of the UK to introduce a deposit return scheme.

Ms Slater continued: “The Scottish Parliament passed the legislation on this in 2020 and we have been working very closely with industry towards that August launch date. In fact, we’ve already pushed it back a year to allow businesses to recover from Covid.

“And now we’ve been working on industry concerns.”

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Steps were being taken to cut costs for drinks producers, she said, with the minister saying she was “working on” concerns raised by industry players.

She said: “I am aware that there are still outstanding concerns from smaller producers and importers in particular, which I take absolutely seriously and we are also working on solutions to these issues.

“I met with small producers on Friday and I take their concerns very, very seriously.

“So we’re looking at what solutions we can put in place to support small growers, because we really want all Scottish businesses to be able to fully participate in this really exciting scheme.”

Meanwhile, environmental campaigners have insisted the initiative must start in August as planned, with Kim Pratt of Friends of the Earth Scotland saying companies have had five years to prepare.

She said: “Suggestions that DRS will cost consumers are irresponsible – like existing deposit return systems in other countries, it will be simple for customers to claim back their 20p deposit from any store participating in the program.”

Dr Kat Jones, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) who launched her Have You Got The Bottle? campaign since 2014, said the Scottish scheme had been ‘twice delayed in response to the downturn in the industry’.

She said: “We have seen support from the Scottish public for the return of deposits since the start of the campaign.

“This program works well in other countries where it has reduced the waste we see in our cities and countryside, reduced carbon emissions and resulted in savings for local authorities.

“We need industry to work with the Scottish Government to create a program that works for business, communities and the environment.”

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