The UK government has announced a decision to temporarily exclude Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) from the Internal Market Act 2020, which will allow the scheme to launch next year. As part of the announcement, the government confirmed that glass will be excluded from the Scottish scheme.

Scotland’s DRS is to start in March 2024, while other UK nations won’t launch schemes until 2025. To do this, the Scottish government had to gain an exemption from the Internal Market Act – legislation introduced after Brexit to reduce trade barriers within the UK.

While glass packaging was set to be included in the Scottish DRS, the temporary exclusion from the Internal Market Act will cover PET plastic, aluminium and steel cans only.

“The inclusion of glass would add cost and complexity to the schemes in particular to hospitality and retail sectors, as well as adding consumer inconvenience,” the government announcement said. 

Responding to the government’s decision, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said: “The announcement of the exclusion of glass from DRS in Scotland is welcome news for many local shops that were concerned about asking their store colleagues to handle and store glass that could be broken or soiled.”

Colin Smith, chief executive of the Scottish Wholesale Association, added: “The Scottish Wholesale Association welcomes the news that the UK Government has agreed to a conditional IMA exemption. We see this as a positive move in the delivery of a successful Scottish DRS next year and its future expansion UK-wide.

“Glass inclusion is currently the main difference between the Scottish and English schemes so it represents a major change. This move will be particularly welcomed by licensed wholesalers who are wine and spirits importers and treated as producers under DRS regulations. This will also massively reduce the numbers of SKUs affected for all wholesalers.”

Looking ahead, the trade has signalled a need for more clarity on how the scheme will operate on a nationwide level. 

The ACS’s Lowman said: “We now need clarity from governments across the UK how they plan to implement DRS so we can prepare. The best outcome for local shops and our supply chain partners would be for an aligned introduction of DRS across the UK.”