DRS deposit return scheme

Industry bodies have called for an 18-month suspension of plans for the UK’s first deposit return scheme, warning otherwise thousands of businesses will face chaos.

A group of trade associations including the Scottish Wholesale Association, the Society of Independent Brewers, the WSTA, the Scotch Whisky Association and Scotland Food & Drink said otherwise many products would be unavailable on Scottish shelves when DRS is due to start on 16 August.

An open letter to Lorna Slater, the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, also warned DRS would lead to a big hike in prices.

The groups pointed out that the Scottish government’s own Gateway Review last year found that producers needed 12 to 24 months to prepare once “meaningful decisions” had been reached. However, they said that with only a few weeks left to register with the scheme administrator ahead of the legal deadline on 28 February, there were still huge questions over how DRS would operate.

“Without a standardised, agreed and legal basis set out in regulations, there will be additional confusion in an already impossible situation,” says the letter.

“There are now only a few weeks left to save thousands of small producers that will be banned from selling bottles and cans in Scotland from August.

“They lack the finances and resources to meet the scheme’s requirements on time and need an 18-month legal grace period in the regulations and the option to opt in.

“Without this certainty it’s likely that consumers will lose out through reduced consumer choice and increased prices.”

SWA CEO Colin Smith added: “A grace period will allow them to overcome the significant challenges they still face in trying to get ready to go live with DRS because there remain fundamental unanswered questions on key issues such as VAT, price-marked packs, IT system requirements, and what happens to stock in bonded warehouses.”

Last week supermarket bosses warned DRS was in the “last chance saloon” and that without a “complete operational blueprint” by the end of this month the scheme was destined for a disastrous start on 16 August when it is set to go live.

Iceland MD Richard Walker said: “Despite warnings from everyone within the industry, the Scottish government is blindly pursuing the rollout of a DRS scheme by August. Unless operational issues are immediately resolved, it will lead to much higher prices, reduced choice and more plastic for Scotland.”

Meanwhile, retailers in England have called for its plans, due to go live in October 2025, to be shelved because of the economic situation.