Scotland business

Brewery boss claims bottle return scheme 'deeply flawed'

plastic bottles Image copyright Getty Images

A Scottish craft brewery boss has attacked plans to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) for some cans, plastic bottles and glass.

Arran Brewery owner Gerald Michaluk claimed the scheme was "rushed, deeply flawed and open to potential fraud".

The Scottish government wants the DRS to be up and running by 2021, as part of its climate action plan.

It said the intention was that the scheme would be cost neutral for retailers.

It will effectively add 20p to the price of a single-use drinks container bought from a shop.

The consumer will get their deposit back when they return the empty bottle or can to the retailer.

All Scottish retail outlets will need to comply with the scheme, which requires legislation to be passed.

Image copyright Arran Brewery
Image caption Mr Michaluk claims the deposit return scheme will place "a huge burden" on small businesses

Mr Michaluk said he welcomed the "overall objectives" of increasing recycling rates for drinks containers but said the DRS would place "a huge burden" on small firms.

He said: "Small businesses as well as large supermarkets will be required to set up the infrastructure to handle the returns and fund the deposit repayments - not too easy physically and financially for a small business.

"The next flaw is it will only apply in Scotland. So if you are in the Borders you can buy in England for 20p less, then simply return your empty bottle in Scotland for 20p - a great discount and incentive to buy in England.

"To prevent this there will presumably need to be a label on the bottles sold in Scotland - a huge expense for small businesses and a logistical nightmare."

He added: "Any deposit scheme needs to be co-ordinated nationally within the UK as a whole. Having Scotland going alone is stupid."

Business reaction

Business organisations in Scotland have previously expressed concerns about the new scheme.

Trade body UK Hospitality argues that if Scotland-specific packaging is required to mitigate the potential for fraud, customers could end up with much less choice and higher costs.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association says it supports the aim of improving recycling but argues there is "no evidence" to support the inclusion of glass in the DRS.

And the Scottish Retail Consortium says including glass will add £50m a year to the cost of running a DRS, a cost it argues that will end up being paid by consumers.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "We believe Scotland's deposit return scheme can help us to achieve a glass recycling rate approaching 90% which is well in excess of that being recovered through existing collection arrangements.

"The inclusion of this material will deliver significant carbon reductions and help to address the disproportionate impact that glass litter currently has on our communities and wildlife.

"We have designed the scheme in a way which ensures glass manufacturers will benefit from access to high quality recycled material, and the intention is that the DRS will be cost neutral for retailers. We will continue to work closely with the industry during its implementation."

Scotland will likely be the first nation in the UK to introduce a bottle deposit return scheme.

Currently, a consultation is taking place in England with a deposit of about 15p being mooted.

In Northern Ireland, a deposit return scheme is also under consideration.