Campaigners fear further delay to Scotland’s deposit return scheme

Environmental campaigners have accused businesses of seeking to further delay Scotland’s planned deposit return scheme.

Supporters of the initiative hit out after Food and Drink Scotland told MSPs they believed the “right time to go” would be September 2023.

Those comments came from Jim Fox, speaking in his capacity as associate director of the trade body.

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Mr Fox is also the head of public affairs at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners – with campaigners claiming a large proportion of bottles and cans dumped as litter come from the drinks giant.

Environmental campaigners have accused businesses of seeking to further delay Scotland’s planned deposit return scheme.

Supporters of deposit return now fear businesses are trying to “push ministers off course” by lobbying for a further delay.

When implemented, the scheme will see shoppers pay a 20p deposit when buying drinks in cans and bottles, with the money returned to them when they return the empty containers for recycling.

The coronavirus pandemic saw the start date pushed back till July 2022 – but addressing Holyrood last month circular economy minister Lorna Slater could not say if that would be when it will be introduced.

A further update is due to be given to MSPs on Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of that Jim Mayhew, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) which runs the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign claimed industry were now “lobbying for yet another delay” .

Mr Mayhew insisted: “A year is roughly the length of time it’s taking other countries to bring in deposit return during a pandemic, so there’s no reason not to move just as quickly here.

“Businesses in Scotland aren’t any different to anywhere else, they’re just trying to delay an effective system.

“Some parts of industry are even trying to use Brexit as an excuse nearly two years on. Others complain about the costs of labelling, how tricky it is to set up an IT system, or how VAT will be calculated.

“There is nothing new or difficult here, and we are disappointed that such weak arguments are being used to try to push ministers off course.”

In March this year, the Scottish Government confirmed it had appointed Circularity Scotland to run the deposit return scheme.

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Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, insisted it was “unacceptable” for the scheme to be delayed further because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “It’s unacceptable to be using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to kick the can down on the road on the plastic pollution crisis.

“Industry have had years to prepare for deposits in Scotland and have proven how quickly they can adapt to its introduction in other countries.

“It’s time for ministers to stand up to corporate interests and get on with implementing a deposit return system, which is a proven way of reducing packaging pollution and meeting climate commitments.”

It was back in 2017 that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed deposit return would be introduced in Scotland – making the country the first part of the UK to commit to this.

Nina Schrank a senior campaigner with Greenpeace, “While our supermarkets had four years to prepare, other countries in Europe introduced similar systems in just one year.

“It’s time for ministers to listen to the evidence about what can be done, not unsubstantiated arguments from industry about why it can’t be done.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said they “remain fully committed to implementing Scotland’s deposit return scheme”.

He added: “Industry has made progress, including the establishment of a scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland.

“This has been done in trying circumstances, with those sectors responsible for delivering the scheme facing unprecedented disruption as a result of the pandemic and Brexit.

“That is why we commissioned an independent review of progress and readiness for the go-live date.”

He added: “We are committed to the scheme being operational as soon as is practicably possible.

“We are working hard with Circularity Scotland and industry to agree a final timescale and clear milestones for delivery, and will announce that schedule to Parliament in due course.”