The classic HBO series The Wire focused on the interminable war of attrition between the police and drug gangs in Baltimore, USA. The ‘war’ dragged on, using up time and resources, with the strategies being employed by one side simply being nullified by the other. Something similar is happening with the debate on a deposit return system (DRS) for Scotland.

The Scottish government’s evidence gathering and feasibility studies have been going on for almost two years, and the environmental groups have continued their own campaigns – one of which is supported by the manufacturers of the reverse vending machines central to many deposit systems.

Quite mistakenly in our view, the Scottish branch of a national trade association has also pledged support for a deposit system. To them and others we have to point out that there will be no financial rewards for retailers.Retailers are neither the producers nor the polluters, but are being asked to quite literally tidy up this mess.

Small stores will be most drastically impacted in terms of space, cost, staff time and effort – rather than serve customers staff will be getting paid simply to sort through and process returned containers.

We have been successful in highlighting the serious problems DRS would cause c-stores. Of all the arguments used against DRS, the impact on retailers has been the most effective in holding off any implementation. In partnership with ACS, we have completed a short piece of research looking at the impact on consumers and retailers. This could give us the edge in this increasingly prolonged and divisive ‘war’.

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