New date for DRS

The Scottish Government has announced a new live date for its proposed deposit return scheme.

A NEW date has been set for Scotland’s proposed deposit return scheme.

Scottish Government minister for circular economy and co-leader of the Scottish Greens Lorna Slater MSP announced that DRS will go live on 16 August 2023.

The announcement followed an independent review of the deposit return scheme. DRS had been slated to go live in the spring of 2021, however the live date was postponed to July 2022 in response to extra pressure placed on the retail sector by the pandemic.

Despite the most recent postponement, the independent review found that a July 2022 implementation date was not achievable.

While the new date provides the Scottish Government and industry additional time to prepare, the review highlighted a number of challenges that still face the scheme. These include the UK Government reaching a decision on the VAT treatment of deposits. Currently, VAT would be applicable to deposits, leaving consumers to pay a further 4p on the proposed 20p deposit without being reimbursed when returning drinks containers.

Slater also confirmed that, despite the delay, once DRS goes live producers will be required to meet a 90% collection target by the second year of operation – rather than by year three as previously planned.

Retailers are also expected to start rolling out return infrastructure in stores in 2022. Slater said the Scottish Government is working with the retail industry, “to start phasing in the use of that infrastructure, on a voluntary basis, from November 2022.”

November should also see DRS go live on Orkney. The island community will be the first in the UK to operate a deposit return scheme.

Other key deadlines include March 2022, when scheme administrator Circularity Scotland is expected to have signed contracts with partners to deliver its logistics, operations and IT systems. By August 2022, the Scottish Government plans to launch a public awareness campaign and construction is set to commence on counting and sorting centres. In January 2023, Circularity Scotland and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) is scheduled to start registering producers. An end-to-end test of a DRS container through the whole system is slated for July 2023.

Slater said: “Implementing the deposit return scheme is a massive national undertaking, involving contracts with more than 4,000 producers, and tens of thousands of return points, for the management of more than 2 billion containers per annum, with a total turnover of around £500 million. It is essential that the scheme is a success not just in the short term but for decades to come.”

Dr John Lee, head of public affairs at the Scottish Grocers Federation welcomed the delay to DRS, but raised concerns over the phased rollout commencing in summer 2022.

He said: “The Scottish government has recognised the reality of the challenges facing convenience retailers and we welcome the delay of the implementation date until August 2023. However, we are concerned about the Minister’s statement that retailers will begin to roll out a phased approach to DRS in the summer of 2022.

“We need urgent clarity on what this will involve, how the Scottish government will support it and what the objectives of this approach will be. Overall, the successful implementation of DRS is the biggest challenge the convenience retail industry has ever faced.”

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Scottish Retail Consortium Head of Policy, said: “This announcement provides welcome certainty for retailers who can now fully commit to delivering Scotland’s ambitious deposit return scheme in August 2023.

“It has been clear for some time that despite the significant investment made by retailers to prepare for the scheme, there was no realistic chance they could accommodate the impact of the Covid pandemic without impact, never mind the further challenges presented by EU exit and the UK Government decision to apply VAT to the 20p deposit that customers will face. With clarity over the date retailers, producers, and all other stakeholders will now focus their efforts on making the Scottish deposit return scheme a success.”

NFRN Scottish President Ferhan Ashiq also welcomed he delayed start date.
He said: “After several false starts and delays, the NFRN welcomes the certainty that today’s announcement from the government brings.

“Now we have confirmation of a start date, retailers and Circulatory Scotland, the scheme administrator, can begin to work out what this will mean for their stores and how DRS will be incorporated into their offer to customers.

“There is much to be done, but we can now start to focus on delivering a scheme that will work for all retailers – large and small – and achieve its aim of increasing the availability of high-quality recycled plastic, metal and glass and decreasing the number of these items being discarded as litter.”