The Scottish government has published the Gateway Review on the country’s Deposit Return Scheme, which calls into question the viability of delivering the scheme within the proposed timeframe.

The review team found that “a fully functioning and compliant DRS cannot be in operation for the revised August 2023 schedule”.

Miles Beale chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said the report endorses what businesses have been telling the Scottish government for months.

“Even at this stage, detail about how the scheme would work is absent, and the Scottish government are making further changes to the legislation, causing confusion and chaos amongst businesses who are unable to prepare or comply – let alone in time to constantly moving deadlines.  From the outset, the WSTA has argued that the best way to improve glass recycling rates is to improve kerbside collection, rather than introduce a new and complex regime, which is costly and will mean increased costs for producers and consumers, potentially resulting in reduced consumer choice.

“We agree with the review team that it is not possible to have a DRS in Scotland by August next year. Until the Scottish government re-starts talks with affected businesses – and in a serious manner – the goal of a functional DRS scheme will remain out of reach. To date, all that those in charge of its delivery have demonstrated is that they do not understand how businesses operate.”

Last week, Circularity Scotland confirmed a reduction in producer fees ahead of the launch. 

Producer fees laid out in August 2022 have been altered as part of the government’s ongoing review of the scheme operating costs, with aluminium seeing the most significant drop from 3.42p to 2.03p. Plastic has been reduced from 3.17p to 2.21p, and glass has decreased from 4.45p to 4.10p.

Additionally, day one costs for producers using UK-wide barcodes have also been lowered.

Following Circularity Scotland’s announcement, Lorna Slater, Scotland’s circular economy minister, released a further update on the DRS. As well as noting the reduction in producer fees, Slater confirmed that initially, only large supermarkets will be required to provide a takeback service.

Turning to industry concerns surrounding preparation time, Slater insisted that Circularity Scotland and The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are working to “support the industry with compliance”. 

“SEPA has made it clear that it would like to see as many obligated businesses be ready and compliant for DRS next year as possible”, she added. 

However, the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) criticised the minister’s DRS update for not including sufficient detail on how small businesses will be supported in meeting the scheme’s demand, and for not implementing an 18-month grace period for small businesses.

“It is therefore extremely disappointing that the minister has failed to listen to reasonable requests from small producers to give them extra time to prepare”, said SIBA’s regional director for Scotland, Jamie Delap.

“With only a few months to register and prepare, small businesses still do not have the full information they need to make a decision whether to continue to sell in Scotland. The minister needs to recognise the reality of heavily constrained financial and time resources that small producers and brewers face.”

The Gateway Review team said that “a ‘softer’ approach to DRS implementation should be pursued but further urgent activity would be required to consider, assess and agree this possibility”.

Click here to read the Gateway Review.