THE targets set for Scotland’s deposit return scheme are under fire from the environmental campaigners who pushed for the recycling initiative to be introduced.

The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) said ministers should be aiming for three quarters of drinks containers to be returned in the first year – instead of the 70% proposed.

But the Scottish Government has defended the scheme, saying “fairness and accessibility” are key factors of the initiative.

APRS, the organisation behind the Have You Got The Bottle campaign, then wants targets set for 85% of cans and bottles being returned in the second year of operation, rising to 95% in the third year.

READ MORE: Deposit return scheme delay could lead to more littering, campaigners warn

APRS director John Mayhew insisted the scheme must not be “a pass for big drinks producers to move slowly” to tackle the issue.

He said Scotland was “inching towards” the introduction of a deposit return scheme, with the initiative expected to be in place from April 2021.

Ministers are proposing that from then a 20p deposit will be levied on the majority of drinks containers sold in stores, including the PET plastic bottles used for fizzy drinks and water bottles, glass bottles and steel/aluminium drinks cans.

Shoppers would then be able to claim their deposit back when they return the containers for recycling.

Holyrood’s Environment Committee has been scrutinising the plans, with the report, which was published on Tuesday, supporting APRS’s call for the targets to be in place from the outset, instead of waiting nine months for these to come into effect.

Mayhew said: “MSPs have backed our call that targets should be established from the outset. Launching without any pressure on producers risks a system starting in an inefficient way, with business not motivated to make it easy for the public to recycle. Those bad habits could drag Scotland’s deposit system down over the longer term, beyond that inexplicable nine-month exemption.”

He continued: “The other half of the problem is the level of the targets proposed, even leaving aside that proposed delay.

READ MORE: MSPs support Scottish plastic bottle deposit return scheme

“We have been told Scotland will have a world-leading deposit system, but a 70% target for the first year would be utterly unambitious, even if it started from day one.”

The scheme is already in place in many European countries. Mayhew said: “Our friends in Lithuania hit 74% in their very first year up to February 2017, and we think Scotland should aim to do a little better.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are considering all responses to the consultation and the recent committee report on the draft regulations for our ambitious deposit return scheme as we work to introduce the scheme, which will help tackle climate change, reduce litter and deliver a more circular economy.

“Fairness and accessibility are key design principles in the scheme and the ‘return to retail’ model will ensure people can return containers with the same ease they bought them, no matter where they live in Scotland.

“This includes a duty on retailers who deliver shopping to provide a collection service. These measures will ensure no-one will be left out of pocket through not being able to reclaim their deposits.

“We want the scheme to be as comprehensive and accessible as possible, enabling people to do the right thing by recycling their metal cans, glass and plastic bottles.”