The Scottish Government has insisted it had “no option” other than to delay its deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks can and bottles until October 2025 at the earliest.
Scottish circular economy minister Lorna Slater announced a further delay to the scheme, which had already been pushed back from August this year to March 2024, following a ruling from the UK Government that glass bottles cannot be included in it.
She said that was “contrary to the will of the Scottish Parliament” – which had voted in 2020 for a DRS that includes glass as well as plastic and cans.
Ms Slater claimed the UK Government is “more intent on sabotaging this Parliament than protecting our environment”.
She said the conditions the Tories at Westminster had imposed on the Scottish scheme – which was to have been the first in the UK – “blow a massive hole in any certainty” provided to businesses.
While she said Circularity Scotland, the company set up to run the scheme, is “optimistic” it can proceed without glass bottles included, she added the “overwhelming feedback” from producers, retailers and the hospitality sector is they cannot prepare for a March launch as things currently stand.
Ms Slater told MSPs on Wednesday: “Since the delivery of DRS is an industry-led project, these views are critical.
“I told Parliament yesterday that our scheme cannot proceed as planned. The refusal of the UK Government alone to budge on glass makes that obvious.
“As of today, it is now clear that we have been left with no other option than to delay the launch of Scotland’s DRS until October 2025 at the earliest, based on the UK Government’s current stated aspirations.”
That is when the UK Government plans to launch DRS in England – but crucially it has already ruled glass will not be included in the initiative south of the border.
Ms Slater said she is still committed to “interoperable DRS schemes across the UK”, but stressed this is provided ministers from different administrations can “work in a spirit of collaboration, not imposition”.
DRS aims to encourage recycling and reduce littering by charging shoppers a deposit on single-use drinks containers – such as cans and bottles – with the money refunded when the empties are returned for reuse.
Ms Slater stressed her commitment to the initiative, telling MSPs: “Scotland will have a deposit return scheme.”
However she said it will begin “later than need be” and “be more limited than it should be”.
She said the Scottish DRS will be “more limited than Parliament voted for, more limited than I want, that other devolved nations wanted, and that even the Tories in the last election wanted”.
The minister said: “These delays and dilutions lie squarely in the hands of a UK Government that has sadly seemed so far more intent on sabotaging this Parliament than protecting our environment.”