The Scottish Beer & Pub Association has welcomed the acknowledgement of key issues for the nation’s pubs and brewers in the public analysis from the Scottish Government’s consultation on introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in Scotland. It sought the views of a range of consumers, businesses and manufacturers, and more than 3,000 individuals responded. It also indicated support for a minimum deposit level of 15p.

Under such a system, customers would pay a deposit on top of the price of a product, which is then refunded when the item is recycled at a designated point of return.

CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, Brigid Simmonds OBE said, “It’s very welcome to see the concerns raised by the SBPA being echoed by others in this consultation process, particularly around the unique issues for alcohol products and our wider sector. 

“It is imperative that any scheme is well designed and robust for it to be a success. Identifying potential issues such as the impact on our sector will help ensure any system meets our collective ambitions, whilst also avoiding potential harms to industry or other policy areas.

“Placing a flat deposit on alcoholic products severely risks undermining the Scottish Government’s policy of minimum-unit pricing by making higher strength products relatively cheaper than lower strength products at the point of sale.”

Similar schemes are common across Europe, with some countries achieving recycling rates of 95% compared to 50% in Scotland.

Plans for similar schemes are also being developed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, raising the possibility of a single UK-wide system in the future.

Said Brigid Simmonds, “It is also our opinion that any system must be outward facing, and we encourage the Scottish Government to work with DEFRA for a UK-wide solution. A Scotland-only system risks creating a number of trade barriers which would impact disproportionately on small and medium sized producers, whilst also risking the record growth achieved in Scottish exports.

“Our industry takes environmental responsibility very seriously and fully supports the goal of improving the circular economy, reducing litter rates and increased sustainability through recycling. We look forward to working proactively with the Scottish Government in the next stage of this process and in delivering a system that works for everyone.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the analysis provides evidence of backing for a “well-run, and appropriately targeted, deposit return scheme”.

She also indicated that an implementation advisory group would meet next week to provide expertise and advice on implementing the scheme.

“It is extremely welcome that the consultation signalled support for a model which is ambitious in scope and with a minimum deposit in excess of 15p,” said Cunningham.

She continued, “Work continues apace to finalise our proposals for deposit return and bring forward the necessary legislation to support its introduction.

“An implementation advisory group will play a critical role as we translate our proposals into an efficient, operational solution.

“Earlier this week the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments set out their own plans for deposit return and, should their ambitions match our own, I would be happy to explore how our respective schemes might usefully align in the future.

“The very fact that the launch of that consultation coincides with publication of our analysis is a clear demonstration that we continue to lead the way in this area and I am committed to ensuring this remains the case.”