While ministers have announced plans to introduce such a scheme from April 2021, retailers have warned it could be “at least the middle of 2022” before shops have the necessary infrastructure in place.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said that would be the earliest it could happen if there was “an absolute push and a huge focus”.
Environmental campaigners fear any delay will lead to millions more drinks cans and bottles being dumped, along with thousands of tonnes of additional carbon emissions.
Every month’s delay to Scotland’s deposit system would see more than 4.25 million extra cans and bottles littered in Scotland, research for the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign estimated.
Meanwhile, Scottish Government figures show each month the introduction of deposit return is delayed will lead to 4,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and cost local authorities across Scotland more than £600,000.
Ministers plan for Scotland to become the first part of the UK to bring in a deposit return scheme, with shoppers set to pay a 20p surcharge when buying drinks in a plastic or glass bottle or a metal can, and getting their money back when returning them for recycling.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham told MSPs on Holyrood’s Environment Committee there was “strong public support” for deposit return and she was “committed to delivering an ambitious scheme”.
Speaking ahead of the appearance, John Mayhew, the director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, which has been leading the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign, complained some businesses were continuing “to drag their feet”.
He said: “It is more than two years since the First Minister announced that deposits were coming and yet still some parts of industry continue to drag their feet and complain about having to meet these very basic responsibilities.”