Industry gathers in Glasgow to prepare for Deposit Return Scheme

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Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater MSP

More than 600 representatives from drinks producers, retailers and hospitality businesses have been meeting in Glasgow as they prepare for the introduction of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme from August next year – the biggest ever change to how Scotland recycles.

The conference has been organised by the scheme administrator Circularity Scotland to bring businesses across Scotland together and help them plan for what will be one of the biggest environmental infrastructure projects in the UK.

From August 2023 every single-use drinks container sold in Scotland – be that plastic bottles, cans or glass – will be subject to a 20p deposit. This will then be refunded to consumers when they take back the container to their local shop or one of tens of thousands of return points across the country.

Currently, Zero Waste Scotland estimates that only around 45 per cent of recyclable drinks containers are actually recycled, the rest finishing as waste and litter. The Deposit Return Scheme aims to ensure that 90 per cent of all drinks containers are captured and recycled, preventing billions of bottles and cans each year from blighting the Scottish countryside and harming wildlife.

L-R Stephen Jardine (Chair), Jill Farrell (Zero Waste Scotland), Kath McDowall (SEPA), Donald McCalman (Circularity Scotland) / Chris Watt Photography

“With just under a year to go until the Deposit Return Scheme goes live, we’re calling for businesses across Scotland to join us in making sure the scheme is a success,” said David Harris, Circularity Scotland CEO. “We know that businesses have concerns about how the scheme will operate and how it will affect them – and we’ve heard from many of those over the last two days. But that’s exactly why we held this conference – to create a forum for all those who will be involved in delivering the scheme to get the information they need. Ultimately, by bringing businesses together and creating more opportunities to collaborate we can achieve what we all want: to reduce waste and protect Scotland’s environment for generations to come.”

The conference featured a keynote speech from Lorna Slater MSP, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, who is responsible for introducing the scheme. Ms Slater reiterated that there would be no delay to introducing the scheme, which she stressed was a key part of the Scottish Government’s work in meeting its climate commitments. She stressed that the Scottish Government was “listening and responding to industry concerns”, demonstrated by the recently announced streamlining of the exemption process for retailers who did not wish to act as return points. The Minister also told attendees to expect further announcements to address industry concerns around online takeback and said that the government would work with industry to ensure a “pragmatic” approach.

Gavin Partington, Director General of the British Soft Drinks Association said: “Our members are united in their commitment to reducing waste and increasing recycling and support the introduction of a well-designed deposit return scheme across the UK. While there are more challenges to overcome and questions that remain for producers, bringing industry together in this way is crucial as we build towards the scheme going live next year.”

Mo Razzaq, Convenience retailer and Deputy Vice President of the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) said: “Retailers like us will be at the forefront of the Deposit Return Scheme, providing thousands of return points in every corner of Scotland where consumers will be able to take back their bottles and cans. Delivering this is complex and presents different obstacles for retailers of all different sizes but being able to speak to experts and other businesses helps us to understand what is required and allows us to plan effectively for the future.”