The Scottish Deposit Return Scheme has been delayed until March 2024 in order to “address concerns with the scheme and ensure a successful launch next year”.

Announced by new First Minister Humza Yousaf as part of his “New Leadership, A Fresh Start for Scotland” speech, the scheme was due to be implemented in August 2023 however there had been appeals from the retail and manufacturing industry to delay it.

Yousaf said “this provides 10 months for businesses to get ready”.

“We will use that additional time to work with businesses, and Circularity Scotland, to address concerns with the scheme and ensure a successful launch next year.”

He added tha he “remains committed to this Scheme as a way to increase recycling, to reduce litter on streets and on  beaches and help achieve net zero ambitions”.

Yousaf said the delay was also down to battles with the UK government over the implementation of the scheme.

”But we recognise the uncertainty that continues to be created as a result of the UK Government delaying the decision to exclude the scheme from the Internal Market Act. We had hoped for a decision on that this week – but it has not come. At the same time, I – and the Circular Economy Minister - have heard the concerns of business, particularly about the scheme’s readiness for launch this August.”

To address these business concerns, he announced that DRS will be “simplified” with more details to be revealed by Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater later this week.

“We have also developed a package of measures to simplify and de-risk the scheme, and to support small businesses and hospitality in particular.”

Commenting on the delay, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “We are disappointed that we’ve not been able to meet the timetable for DRS in Scotland, but local shops will welcome the additional time to ensure that the scheme can run as smoothly as possible when it is introduced next March. Despite the delay, there will still be a 19-month period where the scheme will be operating in Scotland but not in the rest of the UK and this will cause issues, particularly for wholesalers and smaller suppliers.

“It is important to remember that businesses at all levels of the supply chain will need to commit to tackling the significant operational challenges that the introduction of DRS will present, in order for it to work effectively for businesses and consumers. This is still a tight timetable but we will continue to engage with the Scottish Government and support retailers with the implementation of this scheme.”

Federation of Independent Retailers deputy vice president Mo Razzaq raised the issue of compensation for retailers who have already invested in DRS for their stores. 

“It makes sense to delay the launch because communication from the Scottish government has been poor and it will help retailers due to all the mixed messages we have been getting,” he said. ”We still have a lot of unanswered questions and we will be demanding compensation for those retailers that have already entered into expensive contracts for the RVMs required to operate the scheme. Many of our members have spent large sums of money buying RVMs and altering the layout of their stores to be prepared for the launch of the scheme in August.

“We will also continue to push the government for grants to help pay for the machines. The Irish government has said it will help smaller retailers in this way, and we urge the Scottish government to follow Ireland’s lead.”

Scottish Wholesale Association chief executive Colin Smith added: “We welcome the First Minister’s announcement of a 10-month delay and his continued commitment to support small businesses impacted by the scheme. We await the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity’s speech on Thursday when we will get further details of plans to simplify the scheme and what that will mean for Scotland’s wholesale sector.

“It’s now essential that the Scottish Government, CSL, Seap and business work together so we can address the myriad practical issues still standing in the way of a workable DRS being launched in March. SWA has been pushing hard for a de-minimis approach to ensure wholesalers putting small volumes of a product on to the market aren’t hit hard by DRS and consumer choice isn’t reduced significantly. We believe that approach would help small importers but it would also reduce the numbers of producers CSL has to deal with, thereby simplifying and de-risking Scotland’s DRS.”

James Lowman and Mo Razzaq will be discussing DRS and its impact on retail at The Convenience Conference in London on 6 June. Join them and other industry experts by booking your tickets now.