Scottish convenience leaders welcome DRS delay

Industry consultation essential, say chiefs, as deposit return scheme go-live date pushed back two years

The latest delay to the UK DRS sees the scheme pushed back by a further two years.
The latest delay to the UK DRS sees the scheme pushed back by a further two years.

INDUSTRY members have broadly welcomed the delay to the UK-wide deposit return scheme (DRS), provided Westminster strives to work with businesses.

Announced on 25 April, the UK Government confirmed a new go-live date of October 2027, pushing the scheme back by two years.

Robbie Moore, minister for water and rural growth, said: “With the agreement of Ministerial colleagues across the devolved administrations, the DRS will go live in October 2027.”

Moore also confirmed that glass will still not be included as part of the UK-wide DRS, claiming that it would only “create undue complexity” for retailers and return handlers.

Pete Cheema, chief executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, welcomed the clarity of the announcement from Westminster but urged a necessity to listen to the industry going forward now.

He said: “Growing doubt around the direction of travel for the UK DRS and the fast-approaching launch date of 2025, especially after the mishandled scheme in Scotland, was creating a lot of uncertainty, potentially setting back business confidence and investment in the scheme. So, we welcome the clarity provided by this announcement.

“However, the matter of critical importance going forward is that DEFRA and the UK Government must take on board the hard-learned lessons from the situation in Scotland.

“The failure of government to listen to industry concerns ended up costing businesses and the wider economy hundreds of millions in wasted investment.”

Colin Smith, chief exec at the Scottish Wholesale Association, echoed these sentiments, calling for the UK Government to learn from the failings of the Scottish scheme and build up confidence for the DRS once again.

He said: “We are particularly pleased with the inclusion of the low volume sales exemption, secured by SWA within the Scottish DRS regulations, and which protects wholesalers that import niche beverage products and our small Scottish producer members.

“As with all regulations, the devil is in the detail and much of this will still be up to the Deposit Management Operator (DMO) to set out, including the container deposit levels and producer fees – both of which were highly contentious issues within Scotland’s scheme.

“Add in the politics, including the UK General Election and what changes a potential new government may make, along with how the new Scottish minister dealing with DRS may review Scotland’s position, and there’s still a lot to be done to ensure the industry has the confidence to face round two.”

However, there is some speculation over the Welsh Government’s own plans for DRS now as the country’s scheme seeks to implement glass returns, which has prompted industry members to urge for a four-nations approach.

James Lowman, chief exec at the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “It’s essential that the scheme is given every opportunity to succeed, which involves as much alignment as possible between UK nations, the strategic mapping of sustainable return points, and the creation of the DMO.

“Given the new timescales for the introduction of the scheme, we now have more capacity to get the details right. We urge the Welsh Government to align its scheme with the rest of the UK and exclude glass.”