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SLTA Calls for Swift Action on Unanswered Questions on DRS

The (SLTA) Scottish Licensed Trade continues to express serious concerns over the deposit return scheme (DRS) ahead of the August launch date with many questions about its operation still unanswered and small businesses still disadvantaged.

Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, said:
“Yesterday, we were told that drinks producers responsible for more than 95% of containers sold in Scotland have signed up for the DRS along with more than 650 small and medium-sized producers.

“Circularity Scotland says that producers responsible for more than two billion recyclable drinks containers had registered for the scheme.

“However, when you look closely at these figures, just a fraction of firms has registered – 664 out of the 4,000-4,500 that was anticipated. It’s a very low figure and it reaffirms our concerns that this DRS is not fit for purpose.

“We reiterate that we don’t want to scrap the scheme – we want it paused so that our concerns and those of other trade groups representing all aspects of the drinks industry and the supply chain can be carefully considered and addressed ahead of its implementation.

“The DRS as it stands needs to be rethought and adjusted to ensure that smaller businesses are not bogged down by bureaucracy and forced to deal with unnecessary layers of administration.

“Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater insists that she understands our concerns – but quite clearly, she doesn’t. The industry is still recovering from the pandemic and we are all now in one of the worst cost-of-living crises that has been experienced in a generation. Yet customers will be expected to pay 20p upfront for each drinks container purchased from retailers.

“Now is simply not the time. Deposit return schemes have been introduced successfully in other countries, but these have been done in stages – not the all-encompassing big hit the Scottish Government is trying to achieve.

“We also wonder what might happen in terms of implementation of the DRS when the new First Minister is announced at the end of this month given all three candidates have also expressed concerns.”

Mr Wilkinson welcomed the news that Sepa (Scottish Environment Protection Agency), the scheme’s regulator, has confirmed registration will remain open to enable all producers to sign up in time for the launch of the DRS on August 16.

However, he warned: “The timescale is alarmingly tight to have the DRS go live on August 16 when there is still so much ambiguity.

“Registration for retailers and hospitality operators kicked in yesterday yet countless issues remain unresolved – collection times, storage and security, hybrid hospitality venues where some off-sales transactions take place.

“When will we be provided with the definitive exemption criteria for licensed hospitality (closed loop) businesses that provide food takeaway/deliveries and include wine/beer etc? We need answers and we need those answers now.

“It’s all very well for Circularity Scotland, the scheme administrator, to come out and say that there will be improved payment terms for lower sales volumes and a much simpler labelling option for niche products – but what are those terms and options? Please tell us.”