The Deposit Return Scheme – the first of its kind in the UK – will see consumers pay a 20p deposit on every glass and plastic bottle, as well as each steel and aluminium drinks can, bought from any shop in Scotland. The move comes in a bid to tackle climate change, plastic pollution and encourage more and better recycling.
When plans for the new regime were first unveiled, Environmental Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced that small retailers would not be exempt from the scheme – meaning retailers of all sizes need to be ready for its implementation.
And it’s not just businesses in the retail sector that will be impacted – the scheme will also affect those in manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and those responsible for handling the collection and recycling of materials.
A consultation on the introduction of a similar scheme in England and Wales has also concluded, but further evidence and analysis on the costs and benefits of the scheme is being carried out and will be subject to further consultation in relation to its regulatory framework.
It’s not yet known what form the scheme will take or whether it will differ from Scotland’s, and it will most likely be implemented several years later. This will have consequences for cross-border businesses, presenting challenges when it comes to company policy and staff training.
While an exact date for the introduction of Scotland’s legislation is still unknown, my advice to business owners who will be affected by the new scheme is to start preparations sooner rather than later.
Do some background reading, familiarise yourself with the Deposit Return Scheme and think about how this could impact your business. Zero Waste Scotland’s website is a great starting point.
If you’re a small, independent retailer, where will you store returned bottles and cans? How many staff members will you need to train on the new system? Are you going to have one key member of staff who is your business’ go-to expert on DRS, or will you roll it out across the board and appoint a team of staff to oversee its implementation within your business? This could potentially impact job descriptions, so it’s important to take this into consideration.
Although it remains unclear what the potential consequences will be for those who don’t follow the new rules, there will probably be legal repercussions, with enforcement measures including fines, or even court action taken against your business. You also run the risk of receiving negative publicity if caught breaking the rules. I’d strongly advise consulting with a solicitor who can talk you through the new laws and how to avoid falling foul of these.
I believe the Deposit Return Scheme is a positive step in the right direction towards improving recycling rates and creating a circular economy in Scotland, but I also think it’s an ambitious move which will require a great deal of collaboration from Scottish Government, businesses and public support. We need to ensure organisations are supported throughout the introductory period of this legislation to make it effective.
My advice would be do your research, make sure you understand how the legislation will impact on your business practices, be proactive and seek legal advice to ensure your business is on the right side of the law.
Elizabeth Tainsh is a Planning and Environmental Law Associate at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP