Scottish Tories call for deposit return scheme to include glass

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 1 February 2019 in News

Plans to introduce a DRS for bottles and cans were included in the 2017/18 Programme for Government

Image credit: PA

The Scottish Tories have urged Roseanna Cunningham to include glass in plans for a deposit return scheme (DRS).

Plans to introduce a DRS for bottles and cans were included in the 2017/18 Programme for Government, with a public consultation on the initiative closed in September 2018.

But with the Scottish Government due to set out more detail on the design of a DRS, in which consumers pay a small sum which is paid back when they return a bottle or can, the Scottish Conservatives have called for a UK-wide system which goes beyond plastic and allows consumers to return items directly to retailers.

Scottish Conservative shadow environment secretary Maurice Golden has written to Cunningham, saying best practice from other counties shows the need for a scheme covering the whole of the UK, with consumers returning items to a retailer, rather than a depot, which the party said would be more convenient while also stimulating trade.

Under Tory plans, retailers would be paid a handling fee, covering the costs of space and labour time associated with managing returns, and the scheme would be run by a not-for-profit operator owned by industry, with operational independence under targets set by government.

Plans for a DRS were welcomed by environmental groups, with Calum Duncan, head of conservation Scotland for the Marine Conservation Society, saying there is “no more obvious next step to take if we want to reduce the problem of plastics in our oceans”.

Golden’s letter said: “We want to see an ambitious and inclusive system that works well across the whole of the UK, where you can buy a can or bottle in Gretna and return it just as easily in Carlisle or vice versa. I was pleased to see the efforts made by UK, Scottish and Welsh Ministers to this end last year.

“It will be important to ensure ease of use for the public, and, as you know, manufacturers do not want the unnecessary extra costs of establishing separate distribution systems for Scotland and England. I understand that the Scottish Government is further along with system design than your UK counterparts, and it may not be possible to get the regulations passed quickly at Westminster given the pressure of other business there, but I remain hopeful that agreement can be achieved on a UK-wide system.”

He added: “With regard to the system operator, we support a not-for-profit operator owned by industry, with operational independence under targets set by Government. This encourages an efficient system, as any unnecessary costs will have to be borne by the companies who sit on the operator's board. Again, this approach works well in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries.

“Finally, in terms of the materials to be covered, the Scottish Conservatives believe we do need an inclusive system, covering aluminium, plastic and glass of all sizes (and potentially tetrapak cartons). Where a material is not included, there might be a perverse incentive for manufacturers to shift packaging to less sustainable materials. Another key tool here will be producer fees which reflect the full costs of recovery, in line with the principle of extended producer responsibility - this should encourage a broader shift towards the most sustainable packaging possible.”

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