DRS deposit return scheme

The UK government is planning to block the launch of Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) because of its potential impact on inflation, reports suggest.

The Times claims ministers south of the border will look to veto the proposals, which would require a 20p deposit on all single-use bottles and cans under rules governing the internal market.

The latest blow to the rollout comes as all the candidates to become Scotland’s new first minister said they would either delay or scrap the scheme, despite tomorrow being the deadline for producers to sign up ahead of the proposed 16 August start date.

The Scottish government and scheme administrators Circularity Scotland (CSL) held crisis talks with industry leaders on Friday in a bid to salvage the proposals.

Over the weekend, Scottish circular economy minister Lorna Slater said smaller retailers could be given a one-year exemption from the scheme.

One of the leadership candidates, health minister Humza Yousaf, has suggested a similar delay.

But his rival, finance minister Kate Forbes, has said she would put the scheme on hold in response to a “wave of concern” from business, and the third candidate Ash Regan has said she would delay the scheme because of concerns from producers.

The UK government’s intervention, however, could be the final nail in the coffin for the DRS summer rollout.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has raised concerns over the inflationary impact of the scheme.

“Aldi will sell 12 bottles of Scottish water for £1.59. Under this scheme, that will become £3.99,” he said. “If that is not inflationary, if that is not adding to people’s cost of living, I do not know what is.”

A source told The Grocer: “For the minister in charge of the rollout to announce two days before the deadline that small producers may be given a year’s grace is beyond belief.

“Companies have already spent millions preparing for the launch of DRS. How is it supposed to operate if it only applies to large producers?”

CSL has already announced a series of changes to the plans to try to ease the impact on the industry.

Last week it announced thousands of producers would be spared from paying upfront charges for the introduction of the scheme, in a package of support worth £22m.

CSL said it was confident producers would sign up to the scheme despite the latest reports.