The Scottish government‘s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) of 20p has been branded ‘ridiculous’ by one licensee, while others that DRAM spoke to appear to be totally in the dark about how it’s going to work and the impact it will have on their businesses.

The scheme which means that pubs will pay a 20p deposit on glass bottles, PET bottles and cans at point of purchase, which will be refunded by wholesalers when the bottles are returned, will impact on cash flow and the hours that staff work.

Said one, “It is a classic case of people coming up with an idea without actually discussing it with the trade. They may have talked to wholesalers but they haven’t got licensees round the table.”

Harry Hood of Lisini Pub Group told DRAM, “It’s ridiculous. This means we will have to have staff counting bottles at the end of every night? This comes on top of all the other increased costs that the trade has faced recently. Is the Scottish government going to pay for the extra hours that staff will take to do this?”

Said Matt Ronald at Glasgow’s Blue Dog, “I’d say that we go through about 400 bottles a week, so it would be a logistical nightmare to collect them. Plus who is going to sort them? An extra member of staff? Also, would the Scottish government cover the liability of staff carrying bottles up and down stairs to a storage facility?”

The scheme was presented to the Scottish Parliament on May 8th by Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and will come into force later this year.

Jill Farrell, Chief Operating Officer at Zero Waste Scotland, explaining the mechanics of the scheme said, “Businesses that sell drinks to be opened and consumed on-site, such as pubs and restaurants, will not have to charge the deposit to the public and will only be required to return the containers they sell on their own premises.  So while pubs are included in the scheme, their interaction with their customers will remain largely unchanged.”

She continued, “When pubs buy stock, for example from a wholesaler, they will pay the 20p deposit on those items in the same way that shops will. These deposits will be refunded after the containers are picked up, free of charge, for recycling.”

“By creating separate collections for plastic, metal and glass drinks containers, pubs will be helping to support Scotland’s circular economy as separated materials create better quality recycled material of higher economic value.”

But trade bodies are not convinced. Scottish Beer & Pub Association CEO Brigid Simmonds has called the inclusion of glass ‘deeply disappointing.’ She said, “We are glad the Cabinet Secretary has listened to the nation’s pubs by allowing them to decide whether or not to pass on the deposit to the customer, or to operate a ‘closed -loop’ system, which works directly between pub and supplier.

“The inclusion of glass containers inside the system is, however, deeply disappointing to our members and the wider industry. Including glass inside a DRS substantially increases costs and adds complexity to the system. This will impact consumers and creates significant challenges for Scotland’s pubs. Many pubs simply do not have the storage space for glass. It cannot be crushed and therefore the storage requirements are huge for smaller premises in pubs or small shops.”

Brigid Simmonds also outlined concerns about how this legislation might impact on minimum-unit pricing. She said, “We still remain concerned about the impact DRS could have on the rest of the UK. Producing separate bottles for a Scottish market will add considerable costs for producers and it would be much better if there was a system which worked on a UK-wide scale. Not only would this limit the impact on businesses and jobs in Scotland, but it would help reduce incentive for fraud. Setting a deposit of 20p has the potential for undermining minimum-unit pricing and will make a low-alcohol product like beer more expensive than higher alcohol drinks.”

UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland Willie Macleod is, however, concerned about the potential for fraud. He said, “Although the scheme does provide some breathing room for hospitality, there is still the potential for it to be fraudulently exploited. Additionally, if Scotland-specific packaging is required to mitigate the potential for fraud, then customers could end up with much less choice and higher costs.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said, “Scotland was the first part of the UK to commit to a deposit return scheme as part of our wider efforts to prevent discarded drinks containers from ending up in our streets and seas, and is now the first to outline its design – one that is ambitious in scale and scope, and which gives the people of Scotland a clear and straightforward way to do their bit for the environment.”


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