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by Gavin Partington
07 September 2021
Associate Feature: Supporting a Circular Economy

Associate Feature: Supporting a Circular Economy

The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) strongly supports the introduction of a well-designed deposit return scheme (DRS) for beverage containers up to 3 litres in size.

The introduction of such a scheme is a vitally important mechanism for increasing recycling and tackling litter. Zero Waste Scotland research predicts that 34,000 fewer plastic bottles will be littered every day with the introduction of a DRS in Scotland. Furthermore, with the scheme delivering a range of new features, including more than 30,000 return points nationwide, £62m a year could be saved tackling the indirect impacts of litter.

Such is the desire of soft drinks manufacturers to sup-port this mission, the BSDA and its members have contributed the best part of £3m to help get Scotland’s DRS off the ground. This funding has been used to set up the not-for-profit Circularity Scotland Limited, which was appointed by the Scottish Government as a Scheme Administrator for Scotland’s DRS earlier this year.

As our financial commitment suggests, the soft drinks sector’s desire to help deliver a well-designed DRS is unequivocal. But, timing is everything – especially if we want the scheme to be a success.

At present, Scotland’s DRS is due to start in July 2022. We do not believe this date to be practicable for a range of reasons. For one, drinks producers – like so many other sectors – have been dealing with a whirlwind of issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospitality sector went into full shutdown mode from March 2020, with a return to the normality that we once took for granted yet to materialise.

Not only that, many drinks businesses and their retail customers are currently experiencing severe, ongoing problems with logistics, particularly the paucity of HGV drivers available to fulfil delivery orders, causing delays and cancellations.

Specifically related to Scotland’s DRS itself, there is still uncertainty as to whether DRS deposits will be subject to as yet undefined VAT rules. As things stand, it seems that the UK Government is intending to apply VAT to the deposit fee. This would bring a huge cost and a great deal of complexity in trying to administer this across the supply chain, as well as effectively taxing the incentive that is there to encourage good consumer behaviour. This does not make sense and needs to change.

Rest assured, despite these challenges, the soft drinks sector is still doing what it can to help a DRS in Scotland see the light of day as soon as is practicably possible. The concerns we raise are because we wish the scheme to launch successfully and achieve its targets. Not only have BSDA members made a significant financial contribution to help with set-up costs, many soft drinks manufacturers have been innovating to improve the carbon footprint of their packaging for some time. Meanwhile, others have publicly set themselves ambitious environmental targets to meet in the years to come.

But in the here and now, and with the clock ticking towards the current go-live date in Scotland, we urge the Scottish Government to consider the wide-ranging challenges facing consumers and industry and respond by providing a pragmatic, revised, go-live deadline that will help ensure delivery of a well-designed DRS system in Scotland that works for everyone.

This article was sponsored by the British Soft Drinks Association.

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