The Fear bottle return scheme will not be ready by the August deadline

Empty plastic bottles

Empty plastic bottles

A leading trade body fears Scotland’s deposit return scheme will not be ready to launch in August.

The flagship initiative is designed to increase recycling through a 20p deposit on single-use drink bottles and cans.

But the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said its members, who must register by March 1, were yet to see an operating blueprint.

The Scottish government said it was working with industry to deliver the scheme.

The chief executive of Circularity Scotland, the newly created company that administers the initiative, told BBC Scotland that it would be ready for its launch date of August 16.

But Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy leader of the SRC, urged ministers to provide clarity to its members by the end of the month.

Otherwise, he warned of disruption to consumers, higher prices and a reduction in choice.

recycling Denmark

Automatic recycling machines like this one can be found in every supermarket in Denmark

Mr MacDonald-Russell said: “Despite this huge investment we are concerned about the failure of the government and the bodies it approves to provide the key information retailers need to build a workable returns system.

“We are already beyond reasonable deadlines to land this scheme well into August.”

After a meeting with Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater on Tuesday, Mr MacDonald-Russell said the scheme was a “last chance saloon”.

He added: “If the Scottish government and its partners cannot deliver a full operational blueprint by the end of February, which covers the key information retailers need to deliver the necessary infrastructure for the DRS to succeed, we do not believe the scheme can be launched successfully in the middle of the fair. – August.”

He warned that if the fallout was successful, consumers would face a “bewildering array of approaches” that would make the recycling process “complex”.

A woman chooses a single-use drink from the supermarket shelf

Shoppers will be charged an additional refundable fee when purchasing single-use drinks

Under the scheme all producers based in Scotland will have to add 20p to every product they make before it is sold anywhere in the country.

It will then be charged to the retailer who will bill the consumer.

To get this money back people must take the empty bottles or cans to a reverse vending machine in a supermarket or a designated return point.

Dougal Sharp, founder of Innis & Gunn, told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland program that there would be an extra 10p to 20p in administrative costs per product associated with the scheme.

Combined, this could mean consumers paying an extra £1.60 for a four-pack of the company’s craft beer and £4 for a 10-pack.

Asked why he described the scheme as a “rip-off” by the Scottish government, Mr Sharp said: “Without signing the producer agreement we can’t sell anything in Scotland. It’s that simple.

“But the big problem is that, as in the producer agreement, Innis & Gunn will be obliged, in the event that the scheme is not launched on August 16 this year, to pay significant sums of money to Circularity Scotland.

“So it’s a case of ‘if you don’t register you can’t trade’ and ‘if you register and we don’t launch you’re on the hook for significant sums of money’.”

‘Eye watering’

Mr Sharp described the sliding scale of liabilities, which he said amounted to an unsecured loan, as “eye-popping”.

For large companies he said this ranged from £50,000 to £1.5m a month.

Mr Sharp said a “huge amount of infrastructure” was needed before the launch, from recycling centers to vehicles.

He added: “We are concerned that the complexity of the scheme and the significant costs, both to producers and end users, could jeopardize its success.”


All types of drinks and all containers over 50ml and up to three liters in size are included in the scheme and the money will be refunded over the counter or by using a reverse vending machine.

Justin Wingate, from On Trade Scotland magazine, told Good Morning Scotland that the extra costs would filter down from the manufacturer to the consumer.

He added that there was uncertainty in the hospitality sector as to why there was such a push from Circularity Scotland and the Scottish government to implement something they “admitted they are not ready for, and they are not ready for it” .

Mr Wingate added that huge pressure was being put on brands, venues and administrators to deliver the scheme.

The matter is being discussed on social media and a thread Edinburgh-based craft brewer Theo Barnes warned that small companies would face major cash flow problems.

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden also said businesses had not been given answers to “the most basic questions”.

But David Harris, chief executive of Circularity Scotland, said the producers were responsible for running the scheme.

Asked about the current launch plan, he told Good Morning Scotland: “The scheme will be ready.”

Mr Harris described the initiative as “a very large piece of environmental infrastructure” which would affect small and large producers as well as convenience stores and supermarkets.

He said: “We are not saying it will be perfect on day one but we are saying it will be up and running on time.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We are committed to a pragmatic approach to implementation and making the scheme more efficient and cost-effective.

“Ministers and officials meet regularly with the industry and will continue to do so as we work together to deliver this scheme.”

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