The Scottish Parliament (©Adam Elder)

The Scottish Wholesale Association has welcomed deferment of Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) from April 2021 to July 2022, reaffirming that industry had said from the outset that the implementation of a scheme in 2021 was always going to be unachievable.

However, the trade association has questioned the timing of the Scottish Government’s announcement which has come during a period when wholesalers and their customers are working around the clock as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds.

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Rosanna Cunningham MSP, said that extending the “go live” date of the scheme will “give businesses more time to prepare their premises for the scheme and crucially, provides flexibility in the immediate term as the whole country prepares to deal with Covid-19 – the impact of which continues to be closely monitored”.

Colin Smith, chief executive of the Scottish Wholesale Association, agreed that pushing back implementation of DRS until 2022 would give retailers more time to prepare but expressed disappointment that the Scottish Government had chosen this week to unveil the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020.

“Our members and their customers are working around the clock to cope with the challenges presented by the most serious health and economic crisis since the Second World War,” he said. “At this critical time, when retailers and hospitality businesses are facing considerable uncertainty over the future viability of their businesses and trying to do their best for their customers and staff, it seems strange the Scottish Government would choose now to publish the regulations.”

The DRS scheme will include plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), aluminium and steel cans, and glass bottles. Under the scheme, a 20p deposit will be applied each time one of those single-use drinks containers is sold.

Retailers can choose to install reverse vending machines (RVMs) to collect empty containers, or collect the containers manually over the counter. Non-retail spaces will also be able to act as return locations.

They can apply for exemption from 1 January 2021, which “will afford retailers sufficient time to seek any exemptions prior to the scheme becoming fully operational”, the regulations state.

The SWA has been part of the Scottish Government’s DRS Implementation Advisory Group, working alongside Zero Waste Scotland and Government officials to deliver the most effective scheme. Read the regulations here.