THE Scottish Government has announced major changes to its controversial recycling scheme after outcry from businesses.

Circular economy minister Lorna Slater announced four key revisions to the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) just days after the First Minister said he would delay its introduction for nearly a year.

Slater defended the scheme as vital to reducing “litter on our streets” and meeting the country’s climate targets.

But she conceded the scheme must “be delivered in a way that works for businesses, especially for small drinks producers” after the drinks industry raised serious concerns about the project in its previous form.

Under the revised plans, bottles, cans and cartons of under 100ml would be excluded, excluding whisky miniatures and other small drinks from the scheme.

READ MORE: Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme delayed till March 2024, Humza Yousaf confirms

Also excluded are products which sell fewer than 5000 units per year – which the Government said would “particularly benefit craft” drinks makers. The Government estimated this would remove the need for around 44% of affected drinks businesses to apply a deposit to their products.  

Hospitality premises which sell most of their drinks for consumption on the premises will be exempt from acting as a return point for empty containers.

And the Government said the online application process for retailers to apply for an exemption from acting as a return point had been “simplified”.

The changes are yet to be approved by parliament, though it is expected they will pass.

Slater said: “Scotland’s deposit return scheme will reduce litter on our streets, massively increase the recycling of drinks containers and help meet our net zero ambitions.

“However, to realise these benefits DRS needs to be delivered in a way that works for businesses, especially for small drinks producers.

“The changes I have set out will make the scheme easier for industry to deliver – especially for craft producers – while still making sure the vast majority of drinks containers are captured for recycling.

“To move forward with certainty, the UK Government must stop delaying the long overdue exclusion from the Internal Market Act. This damaging Act was imposed on the Scottish Parliament after Brexit without its consent and creates confusion and uncertainty for businesses.

“After that Act was passed, we engaged in good faith, following the agreed process, and have done so for nearly two years now to agree an exclusion. The UK Government needs to at long last issue an exclusion, and recognise the right of the Scottish Parliament to enact legislation in devolved areas without interference.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "Ministers only received the formal request for a UK Internal Market Act exclusion for the Scottish Government's Deposit Return Scheme on March 6, 2023.

“The Scottish Government has since been reviewing and has now paused the scheme, so it has not been possible for us to fully assess the impacts of the exclusion request on cross-UK trade, businesses and consumers.

"We will continue to engage with the Scottish Government to understand the outcomes of their review and will work together to realise our shared ambition to improve the environment while meeting the needs of consumers and businesses across the UK."