Rural and Environment
Deposit return scheme – changes laid in parliament for approval
Craft drinks producers and pubs that provide off-sales are among those that will benefit from changes to Scotland’s deposit return scheme regulations.
The amended regulations, which are subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament, will make it easier for drinks producers and retailers to prepare for the scheme, while making sure the environmental benefits are still delivered.
The biggest change to the regulations is the start date. Scotland’s deposit return scheme will now go live on 1 March 2024 – as long as the UK Government issue a timely exclusion from the Internal Market Act. This new timeline will give businesses additional time to get ready. However, there are also a range of amendments that have been made to address specific asks from industry.
Changes for producers
The scheme will still include all types of drinks sold in single-use PET plastic bottles, metal cans or glass. However, the minimum size will be increased from 50ml to 100ml, removing miniatures and other smaller containers from the scheme. This will benefit businesses in the soft drinks, wine and spirits industries, while removing just 0.2% of containers from the scheme.
Products that sell fewer than 5,000 units per year will no longer carry a deposit. This will apply to many craft drinks, specialist wines and spirits, and limited edition products. Estimates indicate this will only remove around 0.5% of containers from the scheme but will remove the need for around 44% of businesses to apply a deposit to their products.
Changes for retailers
Hospitality premises that sell 90% of more of their drinks for consumption on site will be exempt from operating as a return point . This will benefit the many hospitality businesses that sell a small proportion of drinks to take away. The regulations already exempt premises that exclusively sell drinks on site, such as restaurants, pubs and nightclubs.
In response to feedback from retailers, only the largest grocery retailers will be obliged to offer a takeback service for those who self-identify as having a disability or are 66 and over. This will ensure that these consumers are able to return empty containers and get their deposit back.
Return points will be able to refuse returns of certain materials in specific circumstances, where bringing that type of material into the premises poses a serious risk to food safety or health and safety.
To move forward with certainty, the UK Government must issue an exclusion from the Internal Market Act. This Act, which was imposed on the Scottish Parliament after Brexit without its consent, has created confusion and uncertainty for businesses.
The Scottish Government has engaged in good faith for nearly two years now to agree an exclusion and will continue to call for an exclusion to be issued promptly.