SCOTLAND'S Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) can “absolutely” go ahead without glass bottles included, according to the boss of the company overseeing its rollout. 

However, David Harris, the chief executive of Circularity Scotland, did note that if the scheme north of the border was dumped as a result of a row between Holyrood and Westminster there could be knock-on impacts on similar initiatives in the rest of the UK. 

As many as 1.8 billion cans and plastic bottles could be returned in Scotland each year under DRS – with Harris insisting this is “well above what is currently being achieved in terms of recycling rates”.

Asked if his organisation can make DRS work in Scotland without glass included in it,  he said : “We absolutely can.

“If we look at the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme, even with glass taken out, it will still be one of the most ambitious start-ups for a deposit return scheme so far.”

He spoke out as the Scottish Government considers if it can proceed with the DRS after the UK Government insisted it would only be granted the necessary exemption from the Internal Market Act if glass bottles were removed from the remit of the scheme. 

First Minister Humza Yosuaf has appealed to the Prime Minister to reconsider, saying a failure to revoke the conditions would put the Scottish scheme in “grave danger”.

Yousaf also said that the Tories have "serious questions to answer" over the acceptance of a £20,000 donation from a drinks lobbying firm after the UK Government changed its mind about including glass in its own deposit return schemes for England and Northern Ireland. 

Around £300 million has already been invested in the Scottish scheme, which will also create more than 650 jobs across the country.

Harris warned that cancelling the scheme in Scotland could damage the chances of the rest of the UK implementing its own schemes in 2025.

The environmental iniative will see a 20p deposit charged on drinks in cans and bottles with the cash returned when the empty containers are brought back for recyling.

Speaking to PA Scotland, Harris said: “If you look at the United Kingdom, it is a really tall order to get a deposit return scheme up and running in such a large territory.

READ MORE: 'Questions to answer' for Tories over £20k DRS donation, says FM

“That’s why Scotland represents a really good platform to get a deposit return scheme up and running, prove the systems, prove the infrastructure, and use that platform to roll out across the UK.

“What we’ve got here, we are building the technology, the infrastructure, which will work across the UK. Let’s get this proven, get this running.”

He added that “anyone in industry” would regard the 2025 deadline for deposit return in the rest of the UK as “ambitious”.

He continued: “The quickest way to get a scheme up and running is for Scotland to proceed as planned and use that as the platform that rolls out.

“Let’s not even think about having to start again, because that would certainly make things more time-consuming.”

With the Scottish cabinet to consider if the scheme in Scotland can proceed when it meets on Tuesday, Harris said they were “waiting to get clarity” from the Government.

With DRS in Scotland due to come in in March 2024, he added: “We’re still hard at work, pressing on. An awful lot of progress has been made, an awful lot is ready to go.

“We’re still concentrating on the task in hand, and, yes, we’re waiting to get clarity from the Scottish Government, but we’re not holding back.”

He told how over the last two years Circularity Scotland has “worked with our business and industry partners to build a scheme that Scotland can be proud of”.

He said he was “disappointed at how the laudable aims of this scheme and its environmental and business benefits have become the target of negativity and misinformation” – with Harris insisting the plans for Scotland bring together “proven best practice from around the world”.

He added: “The Scottish Government has highlighted that the removal of glass from the scheme changes the economic model of the scheme and the breadth of the environmental benefits it will provide.

“However, there would be a risk to jobs and investment if the scheme does not go ahead for cans and plastic, not to mention the ongoing environmental impact we will see from too many of these containers continuing to end up as waste.”