LORNA Slater has said that Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme will “absolutely” go ahead this August. 

The scheme has proved divisive with some firms saying that they could go out of business as a result of the plans - while environmental campaigners have said the initiative must go ahead as planned.

The Scottish Greens co-leader told Good Morning Scotland that she held an “urgent meeting” with small drinks firms on Friday as she pledged to look at what support they can be given.  

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Below is everything you need to know about the plans. 

What is the Deposit Return Scheme? 

Deposit return schemes are used by many countries across the world in a bid to encourage people to recycle drinks containers such as bottles and cans. 

Anybody who buys a drink in a certain single-use container is charged a small deposit which is then returned to them when they take the bottle or can to a recycling point. 

The aim is to incentivise recycling but also reduce litter and help tackle climate change by reducing how much waste goes to landfill. 

How would it work? 

A 20p deposit would be added to all single-use drinks containers made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, metal or glass. It will apply to both alcoholic and soft drinks. 

The consumer can get their money back by returning the container to retailers and hospitality premises that sell such single-use products to take away. 

Some retailers will accept items over the counter while larger premises, including shopping centres and community hubs, will use automated receiving points known as reverse vending machines (RVMs). 

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Payment may be made in cash over the counter or via a voucher from an RVM which can then be used to pay for shopping or you can request cash instead. 

Who will run the scheme? 

Drinks producers and importers will be responsible for delivering the scheme although a private non-profit company called Circularity Scotland has been created to help administer it on their behalf.

Producers still retain the option to administer the scheme while retailers will have a key role to play by operating the container return points. 

Producers will be billed 20p by the administrator for every bottle or can they put in the Scottish market but get this back by adding it to the cost of their products. 

This is then passed down through the chain, through wholesalers and retailers and the customer who then gets the money back when the item is handed in for recycling. 

The National: Lorna Slater has said it is 'all systems go' for the new initiativeLorna Slater has said it is 'all systems go' for the new initiative

Circularity Scotland will pay retailers a small handling fee for fulfilling their role as return points – around two or three pence per item depending on the collection method. 

The scheme will cover all drinks producers who sell their products in Scotland and is designed to be largely self-financing. 

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) will act as a regulator to achieve compliance.  

When is the scheme due to go live? 

The plan was first announced in 2019 and was due to start in July 2022 although this was pushed back after a review found Covid disruption meant that was unachievable. 

It is currently scheduled to start operating from August 16 2023. 

What have politicians said?   

Speaking on last week’s Sunday Show, SNP MSP Fergus Ewing called for an 18-month pause to the scheme as he felt it would actually be detrimental to the environment. 

He suggested that it would add “millions of car miles” as people would need to take plastic back to the return points. 

However, Slater told BBC Radio Scotland: “Our scheme is very similar to successful schemes around the world that do increase recycling but also reduce litter on our streets. 

“We’ve got to do something about it and the Deposit Return Scheme is our answer to that.”

She said she was “really proud” that Scotland would be the first part of the UK to introduce the plans.

A separate scheme will come into place across the UK in 2025. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has already urged Holyrood to rethink its plans, saying it would be better to create a UK-wide system to minimise disruption. 

What about environmental campaigners?  

Kim Pratt, circular economy campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland, said that the scheme “must start on time”. 

She said that businesses have had “five years to prepare” and criticised the UK Government for “seeking to slow down environmental progress in the devolved nations”.

She added: “Politicians should be seizing this opportunity to take urgent action to combat waste and move to a more circular economy.

The National: Alister Jack urged the Scottish Government to rethink its plansAlister Jack urged the Scottish Government to rethink its plans

“Suggestions that DRS will cost consumers are irresponsible – like existing deposit return schemes in other countries, it will be simple for customers to claim their 20p deposit back from any shop participating in the scheme.”

Who has been critical of the scheme?

Also speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Chris Jones, managing director of Paragon Brands, said there is a “multitude of costs” arising from the scheme. 

Businesses could have to have different labels and barcodes for products sold in Scotland and those sold in the rest of the UK. 

He said: “I am part of a wider rinks forum group of approximately 300 smaller producers and it is fair to say there is a huge number of smaller producers who have simply taken the option to stop selling in Scotland.

“The complications and the cost and the complexity involved in setting yourself up for this scheme just mean that the commercial returns are not there.”

Producers have to sign up to the scheme before the end of February. Slater said that she was aware of “outstanding concerns” and that she was “absolutely” taking them seriously.