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Ambitious and accessible deposit scheme can deliver for Scotland

Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme is coming in 2022 – and it’s going to go a long way in helping deliver on our ambition to tackle single-use materials

Iain Gulland | 16 Mar 20

The final regulations to establish Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme were published today, following a public consultation and scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament’s environment committee.

That process has led to several significant changes, but what’s striking about the final scheme is how closely it reflects the ambitions we set out right at the beginning. The desire to use deposit return to tackle a wide range of materials remains undimmed, with glass, PET plastic, aluminium and steel all included.

It’s no secret that many businesses were pushing to have glass removed from the scheme. While their arguments have been considered, the fact remains that glass has already been successfully incorporated into other schemes abroad. Its inclusion brings powerful benefits – not least because it accounts for almost a third of the scheme’s carbon reductions.  

Including glass also helps us tackle a key part of the litter stream – and a highly dangerous, annoying one at that – from our public places. The opponents of including glass haven’t come up with a better way of realising those important gains.

While the scheme design retains the ambition and accessibility that will be core to its success, there are some significant areas where the Scottish Government has taken action to address concerns.

The scheme needs to work for everyone, wherever they live. Making that happen in a country as geographically varied as Scotland poses some challenges, not least in relation to Scotland’s island communities.

That’s why the Scottish Government undertook an ‘island-proofing’ exercise, to make sure that any challenges that are unique to the islands are captured and addressed.

In support of this, we ran engagement events across each island local authority, with a webinar for those that could not attend. The results of this process have been published in the Scottish Government’s Island Communities Impact Assessment, one of a series of new documents setting out the evidence base for the scheme.

The biggest news for most people will be the start date, which is now fixed in the legislation as 1 July 2022. We’re as keen as anyone to see a DRS up and running in Scotland as soon as possible. But we want to see the best possible scheme, with broad support, and a solid basis for success.  Scotland’s ambitious yet accessible scheme is set to deliver that, with major gains over the long-term in cutting carbon, cutting littering and boosting recycling built in.

Industry made it clear that on issues like planning permission for store extensions to accommodate large reverse vending machines, or the construction of counting centres to process millions of empty bottles and cans before they go for recycling, they needed more time to get everything in place.   

The final vote on the regulations is expected in the spring. Applications to establish the administrator(s) that will run Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme will open as soon as the regulations become law. While industry has been involved throughout the planning of the scheme, this will see them truly lead on making the scheme a success.

There’s still lots of work to be done to deliver this ambitious scheme, but Scotland can be proud to be leading the way in the UK when it comes to action on single-use drinks containers.  

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