UK Government poise to block Scotland’s deposit return scheme

UK – The launch of Scotland’s proposed deposit return scheme (DRS) could face delays following reports that the UK Government intends to block it.

According to The Guardian, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has urged the Scottish Government to rethink its flagship recycling policy.

The scheme will allow customers to pay a £0.20 (US$0.24) deposit when buying drinks in a single-use container made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, steel and aluminium or glass.

People will receive the deposit when they return the empty container to one of the return points located at shops or hospitality venues across the country. The DRS scheme is due to go live in August this year.

Jack reportedly also plans to reject a trade exemption request from the Scottish Government for its recycling scheme.

Last month, the BBC reported him as urging the devolved administration to pause the DRS after business leaders raised concerns over its costs.

The BBC quoted Jack as saying: “The introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme is a challenging and complex piece of work.

“The last thing we want to do is rush into this and cause unnecessary difficulties for businesses in Scotland, particularly when many are still recovering from the effects of the Covid pandemic and are having to deal with increased costs due to the war in Ukraine.

“It is not too late to think again and so I am calling on the Scottish government to pause its scheme and work with us to design a system that works for the whole UK.”

Meanwhile, environmental campaigners have said that blocking the Scottish deposit return scheme for bottles would be an environmental travesty in a growing backlash to the UK government’s plans to undermine the project.

 The charity City to Sea, which has been pushing for a deposit return scheme (DRS) to tackle plastic pollution, said the UK government could have avoided the clash with Scotland by working with the devolved countries to deliver a unified deposit scheme years ago.

Instead, Westminster had repeatedly delayed its own deposit scheme, which was only coming into force in 2025 – seven years after it was first promised by ministers.

Scottish ministers have been planning the DRS for years, with Lorna Slater, the green minister, calling it a “massive national undertaking”, involving 4,000 producers, 10,000 “takeback” machines, and 2bn drinks containers.

Across the UK, consumers get through an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year. Only 7.5 billion are recycled.

The remaining 5.5 billion are landfilled, littered or incinerated. Each day UK consumers use 38.5 million plastic bottles.

Other countries have successfully introduced deposit schemes. Last January, Slovakia became the 11th country in Europe to introduce a deposit scheme, which led to the return of 100m plastic bottles and metal cans in the first five months of its operation.

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