Industry chiefs have raised concerns over the Scottish government’s plans to introduce a deposit-return scheme on some glass and plastic bottles, arguing that it could raise prices, limit choice and cause problems for small businesses.
The deposit return scheme (DRS) will see the price of many single-use drinks containers raised by 20p, which will then be refunded when the bottle is returned either over the counter at shops or hospitality businesses, or through a reverse vending machine.
The policy is currently in use in several European countries – including the German Pfand system which was introduced in 2003. However Scottish hospitality bodies have issued warnings that the system not being shared by the rest of the UK could limit the offering provided by the nation’s pubs and bars.
UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod said “If Scotland-specific packaging is required to mitigate the potential for fraud, then customers could end up with much less choice and higher costs. The scheme in Scotland may be used as a model for the rest of the UK, but it is disappointing that we don’t already have a cohesive, UK-wide approach in place.”
Concern was also expressed over the use of pubs as potential stores for returned glass bottles. Bridgid Simmons, CEO of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association added: “The inclusion of glass containers inside the system is deeply disappointing to our members and the wider industry.
“Including glass inside a DRS substantially increases costs and adds complexity to the system. This will impact consumers and creates significant challenges for Scotland’s pubs. Many pubs simply do not have the storage space for glass. It cannot be crushed and therefore the storage requirements are huge for smaller premises in pubs or small shops.”
However the industry was able to make some concessions – particularly giving hospitality outlets flexibility in how they implement the deposit schemes.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, cabinet secretary for the environment Roseanna Cunningham, said: “We are proud to be leading the way across the UK with our plans for a Deposit Return Scheme on single-use containers”, adding, “I have listened carefully to the hospitality industry regarding how DRS should operate for premises such as pubs and restaurants where drinks are sold for consumption on site. I can confirm that, in such cases, the premises will pay the deposit but will have the choice of whether to pass it on to the consumer.”