The circular economy minister said a combination of Brexit and the pandemic had delayed the deposit return scheme (DRS), but said the original collection targets of 80 per cent in 2024 and 90 per cent in 2025 would be retained.
Speaking to the Scottish Parliament’s net zero, energy and transport committee, Ms Slater said the DRS scheme, which 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, will take tens of millions of pieces of plastic waste out of circulation.
The committee recommended the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Amendment Regulations 2022 be approved. However, two members – Scottish Conservative MSPs Liam Kerr and Dean Lockhart – abstained, while Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon voted against the motion.
The Scottish Government last month announced the scheme would be delayed from its original date of July this year.
Ms Slater said: “We've got to get IT systems set up, we've got to build the sorting centres. We've got to work out all the logistics, particularly around online take back, so these things do take time.
"Unfortunately, Brexit and the pandemic did lead to getting started a bit later than we all could have hoped with the scheme. But now that we've got a plan, got some milestones, we've got a scheme administrator, we're going to be full steam ahead.”
She added: “This is a really exciting step forward in circular economy and reducing waste.”
A public awareness campaign to prepare for the scheme will be launched this year.
MSP Maurice Golden asked Ms Slater when she became aware the scheme would be delayed until next summer, pointing to tenders issued by Circularity Scotland in October – just weeks before the minister made a statement to Parliament - which gave a June 2023 start date for the scheme.
He said: “Circularity Scotland Limited issued tenders prior to the November statement that had the start date for Scotland’s deposit return scheme later than 2022.”
Ms Slater said: “[Circularity Scotland] was established by the industry on the delivery of the DRS and as an independent private company. Its procurement decisions and processes are private and its business and not for government intervention.”
Ms Slater said the delay would allow the scheme to reach its full potential.
She said: “No-one wishes more than me, I promise you, that it would have been possible to implement this scheme in July 2022. We have set for a scheme of implementing it as quickly as practically possible.”S
The minister added: "The risk of having a scheme that doesn't work on day one, that is less ambitious, or for some reason does not get the public support and momentum or get retailers and producers on board, is much more than this unfortunate, but necessary, delay.
"We want to make sure the scheme works from day one, to make sure it is ambitious and that we're not watering it down. This scheme will be with us for decades and will have a huge positive overall effect on our environment.”