Scotland postpones DRS due to coronavirus

The introduction of Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) has been pushed back to July 2022 amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, but the decision was inevitable according to Alupro.

Rick Hindley, the aluminium packaging recycling organisation’s executive director, said the scheme which was originally due to take effect from April 2021 was always likely to be delayed – regardless of the current global health crisis.

“There was recognition that the original ambition to have it in place for April 2021 was a hugely challenging timeframe and it was unlikely that the DRS could actually be in place by then, so a delay isn’t surprising,” he told The Canmaker

“The frustrating thing is that it’s now getting closer to when England is potentially launching DRS [in 2023]. It would have been a prudent move to further delay it in order to have a GB-wide DRS implementation, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”

Scotland’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham made the announcement earlier this week in order to give retailers more “time to prepare for a successful scheme from day one” when she also laid the final regulations in the Scottish parliament.

The scheme aims to boost recycling and promote a circular economy by allowing consumers to redeem a 20p deposit when returning single-use containers to shops, but Hindley expressed disappointment with the detail, which does not give scheme administrators the power to set a variable deposit despite recommendations to do so.

Hindley outlined issues such as the fact that the regulation opts for a single deposit of 20p on all sizes of container, which he claims is double the level typically used in the highly successful Scandinavian programmes and will lead to unintended consequences – specifically on the sales of multipack cans.

Hindley said: “We are really disappointed. We have done a lot of work over the past six months to assess the impact of the flat rate on multi-pack cans specifically. We also did a lot of consumer research which supported our concern and spent a lot of time talking to policy makers about this, which included giving evidence to The Committee on Climate Change.

“The committee recommended in its report that the deposit should be set by the scheme administrator and allow them to set a variable deposit if they felt that was appropriate, so for us that made a lot of sense,” he added.

He also highlighted concerns about the timing of the planned assessment of performance against targets, suggesting waiting three years for a review could prove hugely damaging to the packaging industry and that one year would have been a more appropriate timeframe.