Deposit Return Scheme: exemptions possible

reverse vending machine

Exemptions for smaller retailers have been written into draft Deposit Return Scheme regulations, which the Scottish Government has put out to public consultation.

Retailers who do not wish to collect empty drinks containers will be able to apply for an exemption based on an agreed set of criteria that includes proximity to other return points.

The proposed rules also address hygiene concerns; retailers won’t have to take back containers that are soiled or aren’t empty. It remains to be seen how a reverse vending machine would deal with these items, however.

SGF welcomed the news about exemptions; the Federation has lobbied strongly for them directly with the Scottish Government. Its Head of Public Affairs John Lee said they would “provide welcome flexibility for smaller stores”.

“Our efforts on this have paid off,” he added.

However, the Federation remains strongly and consistently opposed to the inclusion of glass within the scheme, as Lee explained: “The inclusion of glass will be bad for the scheme overall and for convenience stores in particular. Glass is heavy, liable to break and takes up considerable space. It will also drastically reduce the number of stores which can use automated take back.

“The convenience sector needs a united front on saying no to glass.”

The SWA, another long-term critic of the inclusion of glass, expressed concern over the lack of recognition of the “substantial additional costs” that its members’ businesses will incur.

Colin Smith, SWA Chief Executive, said: “We are disappointed that there is no mitigation for, or handling fee, to recognise the substantial additional costs and cross-border logistics that will impact on our members business.”

Smith said additional initial weekly cash-flow requirements would run into the “hundreds of thousands of pounds” for each SWA member. He put the extra cost for a solitary truckload of drinks cans at £14,000.

The ACS cautiously welcomed the announcement. Its Chief Executive James Lowman said exemptions would mean less duplication of return points and a more effective scheme.

“However, we still believe that a deposit return scheme that strategically maps the location of return points would be far more effective than a potentially complicated exemption process,” he added.

Interested parties may comment on the draft regulations on the Scottish Government website. The consultation closes on 10 December 2019.

A parliamentary scrutiny process will also get underway. The legislative process is intended to be complete by February 2020 with the scheme going live in April 2021.

The regulations also state that retailers in Scotland will not be permitted to sell products which are not registered as part of the scheme.