Scottish DRS delay must be a decision that enables a rethink – Ecoveritas

Scottish DRS delay must be a decision that enables a rethink – Ecoveritas

Leading environmental compliance data specialist Ecoveritas has described the delay to Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) as a triumph for common sense and a decision that enables a rethink.

While many hoped it would stay within the proposed timescale, the country’s first minister Humza Yousaf announced on Tuesday that Scotland’s DRS will not launch until March 2024. The scheme was due to come into force in August to increase recycling, reduce litter and help achieve net zero goals across the nation.

“This is a sensible delay,” said Chief Strategy Officer Andrew McCaffery. “The costs were escalating and clearly, the full cost of implementation had not been assessed. You have to question the merits of paying approximately £1200 per tonne (based on the Producer Fee) for the collection of plastic bottles through a DRS compared to approximately £200 per tonne if collected by a Local Authority through kerbside collection – all for an increase in recycling rate from ~73% to 90% by year two.

“Costs were always going to be passed down to consumers. We’ll never know the answer to whether politicians ever had a real appetite to commit to doing this during a cost-of-living crisis, and with elections not too far down the road. Without the Scottish government’s full support, the scheme would likely never have been as effective as intended. Therefore, a delay, rethink and collaborative approach to a UK-wide scheme represents the best way forward.

“What is clear is that there were major question marks over the scheme’s readiness for launch this August and a real lack of confidence. It failed to garner the kind of support from businesses needed to make it a success.

“These concerns have common touch points with EPR for packaging. There were plenty of interested observers regarding Scottish DRS, and it perhaps sounds an ominous warning concerning wider waste strategy.”

DRS involves shoppers paying an extra 20p when purchasing drinks in a can or bottle, with the deposit returned when they return the empty container for recycling.

Businesses had until March 1 to register for the deposit return scheme (DRS). The Scottish government vowed to press on with the planned launch of the initiative in August despite fewer than 700 drinks firms having signed up – well below the 4,500 expected.

While the Scottish FM said the extra time would be used to simplify and “de-risk” the scheme, McCaffery pointed out more immediate work is needed.

“You do have to feel for responsible businesses that have kept on top of this legislation, developed and changed to meet these new requirements,” he added. “Any delay penalises those that have acted quickly.

“You have to wonder whether there might be temporary support or reimbursement for those who have diligently prepared and significantly invested.

“Businesses require clarity and quickly! This seven-month delay must be used to re-establish its purpose. And there must now be significant involvement from all affected business areas, many of whom have been put through lots of undue stress and anxiety.”

And as McCaffery points out: “We are also now left wondering what’s going to happen to Scottish DRS material that’s not currently included in EPR in 2023.”

Last month, more than 550 businesses from up and down Scotland issued a joint statement calling for action on the scheme.

The Federation of Small Businesses, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the Confederation of British Industry Scotland, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Scotch Whisky Association, and the Scottish Tourism Alliance are just some of the bodies lending their weight to the call for a pause to the DRS.

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