Humza Yousaf has said it is “extremely difficult” to see the Scottish deposit return scheme (DRS) going ahead without glass, as UK ministers have asked.
The First Minister also attacked the UK Government’s plans for its own DRS, saying it was unlikely to meet a deadline of October 2025.
Mr Yousaf’s remarks came hours ahead of a deadline he set Rishi Sunak’s government to revoke its conditions for the Scottish DRS.
If glass is excluded from the scheme, it could be scrapped.
Mr Yousaf spoke to reporters at a meeting of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry in Edinburgh.
He said Scottish Secretary Alister Jack made “wholly inaccurate” claims about the glass recycling element of the proposals, which jeopardised £10 million in investment.
Mr Jack referred to claims that the Scottish scheme will largely be crushing glass to be used as aggregate for roads but Circularity Scotland – the administrator – has disputed that assertion.
Asked about the viability of the scheme without glass, Mr Yousaf said: “It’s extremely difficult because not only do you look at whether or not CSL (Circularity Scotland Ltd) are able to get the drawdown of funding, we have to look at what the impact is going to be on Scottish businesses, on their jobs, on their investment, on the price of their product.
“That is all issues that we have to factor in.”
He continued: “We don’t know whether the UK-wide scheme is going to happen.
“However, the date of October 2025 is for the birds.
“The Government haven’t pushed ahead with the appropriate regulations, let alone the scheme provider.”
He also denied his Government has misrepresented the views of brewing company Tennent’s on the issue.
The Keep Britain Tidy charity urged everyone involved to focus on the environmental benefits of the DRS.
Allison Ogden-Newton said: “What’s getting forgotten here is that the priority needs to be the environment.
“Deposit return schemes have been successful the world over at bringing down littering and driving recycling rates to unprecedented rates – up to 98% in some cases.
“There is no reason why the UK should not be allowed to benefit from deposit return and to improve its outdated and failing recycling system.
“The Government estimates that deposits will drive down littering of in-scope items by 85% – that’s broken glass, cans and plastic bottles which can be removed from the environment and returned to producers to make new products.”