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by Kirsteen Paterson
26 May 2023
Scottish Deposit Return Scheme 'could become pilot for UK-wide' recycling system

Lorna Slater collects discarded plastic bottles. Pic: Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto

Scottish Deposit Return Scheme 'could become pilot for UK-wide' recycling system

The UK Government is poised to announce its decision on the Scottish Government's Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) bid, it is understood.

Sources told Holyrood magazine that news on whether or not UK ministers will agree the exemption needed for the scheme to progress could come as early as today.

Now BBC Scotland reports that Rishi Sunak's administration is preparing to announce a decision which could propose major changes to the SNP-Green plan.

The news comes days after Scotland's circular economy minister Lorna Slater insisted DRS is "all systems go".

The minister had previously suggested the scheme would collapse if the UK Government does not grant an exemption to the cross-border Internal Market Act by the end of this month.

The matter has been a point of contention between governments, with Slater denying claims by Scottish secretary Alister Jack that necessary impact assessments had not been provided to his office and that the formal request for the exemption had come late in the process.

The Scottish Government aims to start the scheme in March next year. The BBC reports that approval for an exemption will come with the condition that Scotland's DRS becomes a pilot for a UK-wide scheme.

It is also expected to require the removal of glass from the recycling initiative as well as measures on packaging and a reciprocal membership system which will mean participating businesses which join anywhere in the UK are automatically signed up across the constituent nations.

Millions of pounds of public money have already been sunk into DRS and so what happens next is hugely significant.

DRS has already been pushed back from its initial rollout date of August this year. That move came amidst concern from industry and debate during the SNP leadership contest.

DRS aims to reduce the number of single-use drinks containers that are not recycled and adds 20p to the price of each unit. This can be claimed back by consumers who return the empty item to retailers.

The Internal Market Act was brought in to prevent trade barriers in the UK domestic market after Brexit and is controlled by Westminster.

PM Sunak has called on the Scottish Government to scrap DRS.

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