Scotland has delayed the introduction of a packaging deposit return scheme (DRS) to July 2022 following concerns over the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Scotland announced in 2019 that DRS would come into action in April 2021. The scheme would enable consumers to take single-use containers back to drink-selling retailers and redeem a 20p deposit. The policy aimed to promote a circular economy and improve recycling in Scotland.

On Monday, Scotland’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This will give businesses more time to prepare their premises for the scheme and, crucially, provides flexibility in the immediate term as the whole country prepares to deal with Covid-19 – the impact of which continues to be closely monitored.”

In response to this announcement, Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (ALUPRO) executive director Rick Hindley today said: “For some considerable time, the Scottish Government has been considering plans for the introduction of a national DRS. Aiming to tackle plastic pollution, increase recycling rates, improve recycle quality and minimise litter, proposals have gained strong support from non-governmental organisations (NGO) and the media.

“However, despite such promise, I was deeply disappointed to read the final scope of the regulations. While sense has prevailed and the commencement date has been pushed back to July 2022, there are still a number of concerning points.

“Firstly, despite widespread opposition, the regulation opts for a flat deposit rate of 20p on all sizes of container. This is double the level typically used in the highly successful Scandinavian programmes and will lead to unintended consequences – specifically on the sales of multipack cans.

“As an example, the cost of 24 cans in a multipack will increase by £4.80, with the same volume in large plastic bottles rising by just 80p in comparison. Research suggests that two-thirds of consumers would be likely to switch their purchasing behaviour to the cheaper option, resulting in the unnecessary production of 823 million more plastic bottles (8.2 million in Scotland).”

Hindley added that to succeed, the DRS should be changed so that the deposit rate would vary depending on container size to not favour one material over another.

Hindley said: “There is much to consider if the Scottish DRS is to be a success. The last thing we’d want is a situation similar to that in Germany, where a poorly designed system caused can sales to plummet by 96% almost overnight.

“As such, we believe changes to the regulations are essential and we implore the Scottish Parliament to think carefully during this fifty-four day period of further scrutiny about the industry’s widespread concerns.”