Scottish retailers will be able to apply for an exemption from collecting empty drinks packaging under the country’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), according to the proposed regulations laid before the Scottish Parliament yesterday.

deposit return scheme drs

Source: Tomra

The DRS regulations, subject to consultation and scrutiny within the Scottish Parliament, set out that ministers may grant an exemption to retailers where there is “an alternative return point located with reasonable proximity to the premises and the other operator of that return point has agreed to accept the return by consumers of items of scheme packaging on behalf of the retailer”.

A retailer who has been granted an exemption must clearly display information in store that they do not operate a return point, and the location of the alternative return point, the documents state.

The Scottish government initially said in May that all retailers selling drinks would be required to accept returns under the DRS model, either via a Reverse Vending Machine or manually over the counter.

Welcoming the further detail outlined in the proposed regulations, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “We have outlined issues that the introduction of a deposit return scheme poses for convenience retailers as processing these returns takes considerable time and as a result will cause queues, as well as hygiene issues from taking back and storing dirty packaging.

“The announcement that retailers will have the option to apply for an exemption is a welcome one for local shops, and will mean less duplication of return points and a more effective scheme. However, we still believe that a deposit return scheme that strategically maps the location of return points would be far more effective than a potentially complicated exemption process.”

“We still have significant concerns over the operation of the scheme, and we will be responding in detail to the consultation to seek clarity about how the exemption application process will work and how the scheme will practical, proportionate in its requirements of retailers, and will achieve its objectives.”

The scheme will include plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET); aluminium and steel cans; and glass bottles. Consumers will be able to redeem a 20p deposit from any retailer covered by the scheme.

The Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) raised concerns over the lack of recognition within the draft regulations of the “substantial additional costs” that its members’ businesses will incur.

SWA chief executive Colin Smith said: “The Scottish government’s DRS regulations now give the SWA and our members clarity about the scheme and an understanding of the serious impacts facing our members.

“But despite our regular and substantial input into the DRS Implementation Advisory Group, we are disappointed that there is no mitigation for, or handling fee, to recognise the substantial additional costs and cross-border logistics that will impact on our members business.

“Additional initial weekly cash-flow requirements will run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds for each member – one truck of drinks cans will cost an additional £14,000 alone.”

The legislation is due to come into effect by the end of the current parliamentary term, which ends in May 2021.

The consultation, which closed on 10 December 2019, can be found here.