Scotland delays Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) until March 2024

In his first policy announcement since taking over from Nicola Sturgeon, Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s First Minister, announced the Scottish Government’s flagship recycling policy, the deposit return scheme (DRS), will be delayed until 1st March 2024, providing extra time for businesses to get ready. A package of measures, Yousaf said, would also be put in place to “simplify and de-risk” the scheme.

Reactions to the announcement from the waste industry
Commenting on the delay, Lee Marshall, Policy and External Affairs Director, CIWM, said: “CIWM is disappointed to hear that the Scottish DRS will be delayed for a further 10 months but understands the reasons why this has to be so.

“The effect of the DRS on small Scottish businesses needs to be carefully considered to ensure that they are not disproportionately affected. Implementing a DRS is a huge logistical operation to get off the ground and mobilisation was always going to be a challenge.

“A delay until March 2024 should provide Circularity Scotland with enough time to ensure a smooth rollout. CIWM and its Scottish membership stand ready to help the Scottish Government in any way it can to shape the DRS so that it can have the desired effects of reducing litter and increasing the quality of recycling in Scotland.”

The Recycling Association chief executive Paul Sanderson said: “Clearly, DRS has been a huge political issue in Scotland and it makes sense to delay to get the policy right.

“However, as an Association, we would prefer a digital DRS to be the primary option. Scanning bottles at home using a smartphone before putting it in the required recycling bin is more carbon efficient as it reduces vehicle journeys, and means some of the best value material isn’t cherry-picked out of kerbside collections.

“We believe that emphasis should be placed on developing digital DRS across the UK rather than spending millions on infrastructure for physical DRS.

“If Scotland, and the rest of the UK nations, are to go ahead with a more traditional form of DRS, then it should be consistently introduced across the UK. This would mean all UK nations commit to the same implementation date, most likely in 2025, and are consistent on whether glass is included or not. Scotland would benefit from a longer delay to ensure it matches the rest of the UK and gives the opportunity for digital DRS to be investigated and developed fully.

“We are looking to introduce consistent collections in the UK, but we need to be consistent with DRS too. That consistency would also be made much easier and simpler through a digital DRS system where everybody across the UK has the option to receive their deposits without leaving their home.

“Making people return bottles to a reverse vending machine adds another layer of complexity when we should be focused on making the system as simple as possible.”

For further reaction, see John Crawford’s comment on page 65 in the May digital issue of Skip & Waste magazine – available online from Friday 5th May.

Picture caption: Several European countries including Norway, Finland and Germany run successful plastic bottle deposit return schemes

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