recycling bottles

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The Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) has reiterated its opposition to the controversial Scottish government plans for a deposit return scheme (DRS) on plastic bottles and drinks cans.

The association said today the proposals for the trial were “impractical” and would be costly for consumers, businesses and local councils alike.

Scots would face an annual bill of £87m for deposits at a time of rising food costs, said the SWA, which predicted the elderly, disabled and those who cannot afford a car would be the ones to lose out.

“Wholesalers and our retail customers would also be hit by millions of pounds of extra costs - more warehouse space would be needed for Scottish-only product lines, retail space would be used for return vending machines that cost around £35,000, and storage space would have to be used for returned bottles rather than stock,” said Kate Salmon, executive director of the SWA.

“They would also have to cope with a potential new illicit cross-border trade in plastic bottles as well as the additional logistics and transport costs of a brand new system to return bottles to central depots rather than the local authority provision we already have.”

Salmon stressed that the hit to businesses, consumers and councils would far outweigh the benefits, “A DRS isn’t an easy quick fix with no environmental impact and it’s disingenuous of anyone to suggest it is. DRS supporters point to other countries that have adopted DRS, but the vast majority don’t have comparable kerbside collections to ours and many other nations, including Ireland, Switzerland, Croatia, France, Belgium and the Czech Republic, have looked at it and rejected it.”

Irn-Bru manufacturer AG Barr, she pointed out, scrapped its 30p buyback scheme for customers who return glass bottles at the end of last year. The company pointed to a drop in bottles being returned from 90% in the early 1990s to about 50%. “This is further evidence of why a DRS is not right for Scotland and the inflated claims of an 85%-95% return rate on a 10p or 20p deposit from DRS supporters has no basis in the reality of Scottish shopper behaviour,” Salmon said.

The SWA has written to MSPs setting out its position on deposit return, highlighting the negative impact it says such a scheme would have on the wholesale and retail sectors as well as local authorities and consumers.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are considering the benefits and drawbacks of a deposit return scheme. Such a scheme has the potential to reduce litter and improve recycling, but other factors must be taken into consideration and it is important that all interested parties and stakeholders have the opportunity to express their view on such a significant issue.

The Scottish government’s plans have also been opposed by the ACS. However, they are backed by the NFRN and The Grocer revealed in February that soft drinks giant Coca-Cola had dropped its opposition to the scheme.