Scottish deposit return scheme to exempt thousands of smaller retailers

Thousands of smaller retailers are to be able to opt out of the UK’s first deposit return scheme, the Scottish government has confirmed.

Now under new guidance, exemptions are likely to take place for retailers below 25 sq m, which would see them automatically excluded on application.

Additionally, this could see retailers below 100 sq m and food-to-go retailers under 280 sq m likely be excluded on environmental health grounds.

The DRS which is set to go live on 16 August, is set to charge customers a 20p deposit when a drink is purchased in a single-use container made from steel, aluminium, glass or plastic, which is refunded when returned to a retail outlet.

This comes following cost fears for smaller stores, as last year the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) shared its concerns saying where the customer earns back a small deposit by recycling drinks containers with a retailer, this must be “cost neutral” for store owners.


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“The new guidance will make the process of applying for exemptions clearer, easier and quicker for retailers and will significantly reduce the operational burden of the scheme for a large number of hard-pressed smaller retail outlets in these particularly challenging times,” a spokesman for Circularity Scotland told The Grocer.

“The likely change in the number and profile of return points across Scotland is also expected to reduce vehicle miles for collection and contribute to a significantly more environmentally efficient scheme.”

The spokesman added that “crucially, the guidance includes the introduction of a new return point mapping and exemption support service to help retailers identify alternative return points without having to share commercially sensitive information with other retailers.

“In addition, the new guidance clarifies the criteria for environmental health exemptions and the introduction of streamlined evidence and assessment processes to better take into account the challenges facing specialist, foodservice and hospitality retailers.”

ACS chief executive, James Lowman who has described the new guidance as a “step forward” is now urging the rest of the UK to follow on.

He said: “The UK, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments should note the challenges that Scotland is experiencing in using an exemptions system to define a workable and economically viable network of return points.

“We need solutions now on how to map the right network of return points to meet our common objective of an effective Deposit Return Scheme operating throughout the UK.”

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