DRS: MSPs ask Scottish Government to listen to concerns raised by businesses

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Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has urged the Scottish Government to listen to the concerns raised by the businesses on the proposed deposit return scheme.

In a report, the committee noted that whilst the scheme itself had widespread support, there was disagreement about some aspects of the operation of the system, including what materials should be included, how it will operate and when it will come into effect.

“We have heard from many businesses about their concerns about how this will operate in practice. We believe the Scottish Government needs to listen to these concerns and we have asked for more information on the operation of the scheme before this is rolled out,” said Gillian Martin MSP, convener of the committee.

The report says that the proposed scheme will have a real and lasting impact on tackling climate change and asked the government to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to make scheme accessible and available to all who need to use it. The committee has also called for introducing other materials such as cartons, pouches and other plastics in a phased way.

“For this scheme to be effective, we need to ensure that this operates in a way that is understandable and easy to use for the public and businesses alike. We support the initial focus of the scheme but have today asked the government to ensure we can add materials to the scheme, in a phased way, so it is as wide-ranging as possible,” Martin added.

The report agrees with the minimum deposit rate of 20p set out in regulation, but it calls for a flexible system to vary the rate upwards to support the delivery of environmental and social outcomes.

The report recommends a single industry-led scheme administrator with representatives from all parts of the supply chain. It also recommends extending the implementation period beyond April 2021.

The Association of Convenience Stores has welcomed the report, saying it acknowledged the key role small retailers will play in delivering an effective deposit return scheme and is “keen to ensure that small retailers are not bearing a disproportionate burden of making DRS work.”

“The committee’s report reflects industry frustrations about the lack of clarity surrounding the implementation of deposit return scheme in Scotland,” said James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS.

“Local shops need certainty on how the scheme will operate, how they can apply for exemptions and if their staff will be required to manually accept soiled packaging in stores.”

The report also welcomed the provision of exemptions from returns, calling on the government to provide clarity on the criteria for exemptions.

Scottish government has initially included all shops when it announced the design of the scheme in May this year, but allowed exemptions for small retailers in the draft regulations laid before the parliament later in September.