The next steps for Scottish DRS

With the Scottish Government consultation now closed ZWS boss Iain Gulland shares his views on deposit return

Iain Gulland
ZWS chief executive Iain Gulland

THE consultation may be closed, but there is still plenty to discuss on deposit return in Scotland and retailers undoubtedly wish to have their say on what a future scheme may look like.

While a report on the public’s response to the recent consultation on DRS is still being compiled, Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, sat down with Scottish Grocer at the Scottish Resources Conference in Edinburgh, offering an update of where things stand at the moment.

“Obviously to some extent we’re still waiting to see what comes out of the consultation report,” said Gulland.

“We’re kind of standing ready to take action on that but there’s obviously still some modelling work to be done, particularly around financing and going back to the question of wider producer responsibility, so it doesn’t cut across things that are already happening at a UK level.”

How DRS will be financed and operated in Scotland is still an open question, but it’s not one that’s short on answers in Gulland’s view, as the Zero Waste Scotland boss explained:

“To be honest, there are a number of viable options. In other countries there are privately owned schemes, hybrid models jointly owned by government and industry, there are schemes wholly owned by government and there are schemes owned by government but delivered by a non-profit agency. In Canada there’s a social enterprise involved so there are different models.

“That’s absolutely something we are keen to discuss with all stakeholders, what is the preferred model and what would work best for us in Scotland.”

One sticking point for some has been the question of whether or not Scotland will operate its own system separately from the rest of the UK, or opt to participate in a cross border scheme.

The collection arrangements can be as frequent or infrequent as required, that’s what we’ve seen.

Producers and industry associations from Coca-Cola to the Scottish Retail Consortium have voiced their support for a UK-wide model, however should Scotland choose to launch its own system Gulland reckons the challenges of cross border returns could be overcome.

“I believe it’s possible. The caveat would be that you can still have two separately administered systems but you would like them to be the same value, whether that’s 10p, 15p, or 20p; the same materials; and then there would be a degree of acceptance of each other’s materials,” he said.

Collections of returned materials is another question that retailers have raised throughout the DRS discussion, with hygiene and limited space of real concern to c-store retailers.

In this regard, Gulland reckons the final system must be one which is flexible and can work for business.

“The collection arrangements can be as frequent or infrequent as required, that’s what we’ve seen. We’ve visited places where it’s like an app, the shop has an app and they can say ‘I have one bag, one box, one machine full’, press a button and there is a collection.

“If people, particularly small shops, want to have a different service from bigger shops because that fits with the operation of those stores then come on, lets do it. This is not about making things hard for shop owners or communities.”

The consultation period may be over, but Gulland said he still expects to have plenty of engagement with industry in the months ahead, adding that he has an open door to those who still have concerns.

“We remain committed to our key stakeholder groups and we will continue to have dialogue with them,” he said.

“I keep saying this, we’re building a successful scheme for Scotland and we need everyone behind that, and the only way you do that is having an honest dialogue on what that looks like going forward, and we’re not going to do that by not speaking to people.”