A number of industry players have questioned the speed at which the Scottish Government intends to bring in a deposit return scheme (DRS), with aluminium packaging organisation Alupro also saying the 20p deposit is too high and glass recyclers warning of “damaging consequences”.
Scotland was the first nation in the UK to commit to a DRS, and it has said that all shops selling drinks in specified containers will offer 20p deposit refunds to customers. The scheme will adopt a ’return to retail’ system for glass, PET and aluminium drinks containers of all sizes.
Many industry bodies voiced concerns around England and Scotland ending up with two different schemes. The Scottish Environmental Services Association (Sesa) described Scotland as having jumped the gun.
Policy adviser Stephen Freeland said: “It is clearly unfortunate that the Scottish Government has opted to go it alone, with a single UK-wide scheme now a distant prospect. This is likely to increase scheme costs, reduce efficiencies and increase the likelihood of fraud.”
Freeland also thought it would have been preferable for the scheme to have been fully considered in light of anticipated reforms to extended producer responsibility. He also questioned the “incredibly ambitious” timescale – possibly within two years – and argued that stronger engagement would be needed with the industry, to “help ensure the practical steps are in place to make a success of the scheme”.
Alupro said it was concerned that the 20p deposit per container, small or large, was high, double the level typically used in Scandinavian DRSs. It said this, combined with the one-size-fits-all approach, could actually encourage the use of more plastics and ”a decline in the number of infinitely recyclable aluminium cans sold”. The 20p deposit would increase the cost of 24 cans in a multipack by £4.80, for example, while the same volume of drink sold in four two-litre plastic bottles would increase by just 80p.
Alupro said almost 80% of drinks cans in the UK are sold in multipack format, while in Scandinavia a majority of cans are sold individually. Research it commissioned in Scotland found that 97% of alcoholic cans from a multipack were drunk in the home and 72% placed in household recycling.
However, 23% of shoppers indicated that they would switch to larger plastic bottles if a 10p deposit were placed on all containers.
An Alupro spokesperson said: “To avoid distorting the market, we believe the deposit should vary according to the size of the container, as it does in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
“This would then help to level the playing field across multipack cans and large format plastic bottles. We also advocate no cross-subsidy of materials, and that the high value and infinite recyclability of aluminium is recognised in the product fee.”
Meanwhile, the British Glass Association warned the Scottish DRS, in its present form, will have “damaging consequences” for the UK glass manufacturing sector. Including glass in the scheme, it argued, will derail the already high levels of glass recycling by undermining the industry’s investment in infrastructure and communications, and increasing costs.
Dave Dalton, chief executive, said: “That is not to say we are happy with the recycling rate and are resting on our laurels. We fully recognise there is further work to be done to increase recycling of glass containers – but the DRS is not the way forward, and will result in less recycling and more glass being disposed of via landfill or incineration.”
Dalton said it had warned the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland of these “hard facts”, and accused them of refusing to “take a pragmatic and common sense approach in designing the scheme”. He added that the organisation’s research had found that including glass within the DRS would increase the overall cost of its day-to-day operation by 28%.
Dalton said: “These are costs that will ultimately be passed on to the consumer – on top of the deposit required. The effects of this will be catastrophic for the glass manufacturing sector in Scotland. It will mean a drop in the sale of beverages in glass and a knock-on effect on manufacturing.”
The Scottish Grocers Federation has also said it is “massively disappointed” to see glass included. Head of policy and public affairs John Lee said: “This presents major challenges for small retailers. We will work with key industry colleagues through the Parliamentary process to ensure MSPs understand the issues around glass.”
Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Associations, whose members are major customers of the glass container sector, said: “We believe glass is the perfect option for packaging liquid. All UK politicians should recognise this and seek to encourage the use of glass rather than include it in any DRS.”
The Scottish Retail Consortium also voiced concerns about the inclusion of glass, and argued that the “disappointing” design of the scheme could make success “unachievable”. It added that the inclusion of glass will add £50m a year to the cost of the scheme, which will be passed on to consumers. Head of policy Ewan MacDonald-Russell said: “Glass is a difficult, bulky and heavy material to manage and will be an enormous burden, especially for those operating from smaller stores.”