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Deposit return scheme ‘catastrophic’ for businesses

More than 520 industry professionals have signed an open letter urging the Scottish government to delay its deposit return scheme beyond summer 2023.

The drinks industry is calling for a rethink over Scotland’s deposit return scheme

The letter is addressed to MSP Lorna Slater, minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, and MP Phillip Dunne, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee.

The letter warns that the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) will have a “catastrophic impact” on businesses and consumers in its current form. The signatories argue the proposal should be “paused, revised and rewritten”.

One reason stated is that some drinks companies could be forced to close due to the administrative costs associated with the scheme, the letter explains.

The DRS will require consumers to pay an extra 20p (US$0.23) when buying drinks in cans and bottles. The amount will be refunded when the empty containers are returned for recycling.

The aim of the DRS is to reduce littering and encourage recycling.

The letter said: “The DRS is being proposed after two years of extremely tough trading through Covid and Brexit. Further exacerbated by the current supply chain impacts from the war in Ukraine, rising energy costs, business costs and costs of living. Many would agree the timing is not ideal.

“For the scheme to be practical consumers would first need to be informed and fully understand its premise. This highlights an obvious need for educational campaigns and resources, but not just on a national level.”

The letter explained how in 2019 there were 14.1 million overnight visits to Scotland, 3.5m of which were international visitors.

The letter asked: “Who will be accountable for informing visitors of the DRS and justifying the hike in price points compared to the UK market? Will visitors be expected to return their own containers to recycling points?”

Signatories included: Blair Bowman, whisky consultant and broker; James Sutherland, spokesperson for Scottish Hospitality Group; Andrew McKenzie-Smith, managing director of Lindores Abbey Distilling; Annabel Thomas, CEO of Nc’nean Distillery; and Isabella Wemyss, director of Wemyss Family Spirits and Kingsbarns Distillery, to name a few.

The companies are asking for a “collaborative effort” between the drinks industry and the Scottish government to design a “sustainable system” to help producers, hospitality businesses and consumers reduce their carbon footprints.

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