DRS deposit return scheme

The Scottish government said that the UK’s decision to offer a smaller scheme should not be used as an excuse to undermine ambition in Scotland

Wholesalers have slammed the Scottish government’s proposed deposit return scheme, arguing that the policy will change the route to market.

The scheme, which is due to come into place in August 2023, will see customers pay a 20p deposit when purchasing a drink in a single-use plastic container. The deposit will be returned once consumers recycle the container at a designated collection point.

However, wholesalers are concerned that the new regulations will favour the big supermarkets, because of the amount of space required to house reverse vending machines at collection points, and the labour costs associated with emptying the containers for independent retailers.

Speaking at the FWD conference last week, Unitas MD John Kinney said: “It’s an absolute shambles. The real risk on DRS is that it will change the route to market. It’s favouring large town, large car park, large format stores. 

“It should have been a condition of the DRS criteria that it should not change the route to market.”

Bestway MD Dawood Pervez said: “Scotland has jumped the gun and offered a scheme which is not municipal. The result is that we have something which is sub-optimal.

“If you look at the rest of Europe, they have municipally led schemes with municipally based collection locations. Instead what we have is a scheme which is going to end up primarily in the car parks of big supermarkets.”

The policy is also causing confusion for wholesalers who operate nationwide, due to the differing regulations between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

FWD CEO James Bielby said: “It’s simply not logistically or economically practical to expect wholesalers which supply the whole of the UK to operate under two separate legislative regimes. 

“DRS systems across all parts of the UK must be aligned to ensure that manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers can understand and operate a common model.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Wholesalers and small retailers have been closely involved throughout the policy development and implementation of Scotland’s deposit return scheme, and we are confident that we have designed a scheme that reflects their needs.

“We are in regular contact with the other UK administrations about deposit return and intend that our schemes should join up so far as possible.

“However, the UK government’s decision to deliver a smaller scheme on a slower timetable should not be used as an excuse to undermine ambition in Scotland.”