Circularity Scotland, the body set up to administer the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), has said that the scheme has become “mired in political differences”, that it can be viable without glass, and that it should should go ahead on March 1, 2024. This is despite the Scottish Government claiming that without glass the scheme is in “grave danger” and puts Scottish businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
The statement, released ahead of a Scottish Government announcement on the future of the scheme (later today), also reveals that circa £300 million has been invested in Scotland’s scheme to date.
The plea to continue with DRS comes after the UK Government said it would issue a partial exemption to the Internal Market Act for the deposit scheme, but stipulated glass could not be part of it. Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf responded issuing effectively an ultimatum to the UK Government suggesting DRS could not go forward in Scotland without glass and asking it to do a U-turn. It was an ultimatum which was rejected.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack responded saying, “I haven’t had a single letter from a business supporting the proposed scheme that (Green minister) Lorna Slater has brought forward, whereas I have had over 1,000 letters of concern, and it’s those concerns that we have taken into account when we’ve come to our conclusion.”
Circularity Scotland insisted that a Scottish pilot DRS which is then scaled up is the logical path to delivering “an interoperable pan-UK scheme”.
Circularity Scotland said it had made good progress mitigating the very significant sunk costs for infrastructure relating to the glass element of the scheme in just a matter of days. It said that the groundwork is firmly in place for the Scottish scheme to still go live as planned on 1 March, 2024 without glass, and must form the pilot for deposit return elsewhere in the UK.
Chief Executive of Circularity Scotland David Harris said, “Over the last two years, Circularity Scotland has worked with our business and industry partners to build a scheme that Scotland can be proud of.
“We have all invested millions of pounds, creating hundreds of jobs and have brought together the best and brightest people to deliver a ground-breaking scheme which can be the foundation for schemes elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
“I am disappointed at how the laudable aims of this scheme and its environmental and business benefits have become the target of negativity and misinformation. The scheme we have built for the people of Scotland brings together proven best practice from around the world.
“The Scottish Government has highlighted that the removal of glass from the scheme changes the economic model of the scheme and the breadth of the environmental benefits it will provide.
“However, there would be a risk to jobs and investment if the scheme does not go ahead for cans and plastic, not to mention the ongoing environmental impact we will see from too many of these containers continuing to end up as waste.
“We therefore ask everyone to get behind the scheme and we will continue to share our knowledge, expertise and innovation with our partners across the UK as they plan and develop their schemes.”
Turning to DRS scheme plans for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Mr Harris warned that failing to go ahead with DRS in Scotland could have serious consequences elsewhere.
He said, “Launching in Scotland is an essential vanguard and pathfinder for a scaled up and interoperable pan-UK scheme. Adopting this approach and avoiding a ‘big bang’ launch makes a lot of sense and is achievable.”