Circularity Scotland claims ‘milestone’ sign-up for DRS

David Harris, chief executive of Circularity Scotland

CIRCULARITY Scotland has revealed more than 650 producers have now signed up for Scotland’s incoming deposit return scheme.

Calling it a “key milestone”, Circularity Scotland Ltd (CSL) said that producers responsible for more than two billion drinks containers currently sold in Scotland have now registered to the scheme. CSL said this represents over 95% of the total volume of products sold in Scotland each year.

A total 26,000 products have now been registered to the scheme including soft drinks, craft brews, wine importers and distilleries.

The scheme administrator has also announced an extension to the registration deadline to launch day on 16 August to allow all producers to sign up.

Additionally to this, CSL has reminded retailers that registration for return point operators is now open, emphasising the legal requirement that most retailers and hospitality businesses that sell drinks will need to operate a return point come August, including online drinks retailers.

David Harris, chief executive at CSL, said: “This is a fantastic start and a real landmark for the deposit return scheme, which is set to deliver ground-breaking environmental benefits to Scotland.

“I would like to warmly welcome and thank all those producers who have registered for the scheme and emphasise that our team of experts are on hand to continue supporting registration.”

The announcement follows on from a turbulent four weeks for the deposit return scheme, with industry leaders, Scottish producers and politicians weighing in on the matter, calling for delays to the scheme or for it to be scrapped altogether.

Doubts around the number of producers signed up to the scheme so far were raised in Scottish Parliament during First Minister’s Questions on 2 March.

However, the out-going FM Nicola Sturgeon stated that initial estimates for producers were not entirely accurate noting that groups of companies joined the scheme under one registration name.

It is now estimated that the total number of producers/importers to sign up to the scheme will now sit at just below 2,000 instead of the initial projection of 4,500.

She said: “The vast majority of product is actually produced by a relatively small number of producers.

“As of yesterday, more than 90% of product and of the market is covered and that is the crucial point. If it were the reverse, that would be a problem.”

While this number of producers is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the scheme, there are still further concerns for smaller businesses and producers.

Local producers have called into question the legality of the scheme, with Dougal Sharp, founder of Innis & Gunn craft beer, stating that the brewery had not signed up to the scheme.

During BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Sharp said he had taken legal advice before choosing not to sign up to the scheme, citing that DRS could also hike up prices for consumers during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Further to this, there are still calls for a year’s grace period for small producers to help alleviate the stress and financial pressure that DRS could bring to them.

Colin Smith, chief executive of the Scottish Wholesale Association, said: “Convenience stores – our members’ customers – are struggling in the same way that the supply chain is struggling, with retailers and wholesalers alike looking to minimise ongoing cost burdens while they negotiate all the red tape and bureaucracy that seems to be increasing at an alarming pace.

“Wholesale has always been a resilient sector, one not afraid to take risks and embrace new challenges.

“In 2023, we will continue to display that resilience and celebrate our industry – and this was very much in evidence at our recent Achievers Awards in Edinburgh. At the same time, our members are embracing the need to focus on sustainability issues – yet this is challenging when they are faced with so many current and more pressing issues.”