Posted: 14/06/2019

Concerns for all UK indies as Scotland makes recycling scheme compulsory

Scotland will not exempt small retailers from its deposit return scheme for cans, glass and plastic

The Scottish government’s decision not to exempt small retailers from its forthcoming deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks cans, glass bottles and PET is worrying news for many independents as the rest of the UK prepares to follow suit.

Scotland’s new DRS will require shoppers to pay a 20p deposit as part of its plans to combat climate change. This will be refunded when a container is returned to a retailer.

Michael Gove, environment secretary, told MPs last month: “It is absolutely vital that we make sure [DRS] works UK-wide.”

Westminster is currently reviewing responses to its own consultation on the issue for the rest of the UK. 

Small shops group the ACS warned such a scheme would not be “safe, clean or practical” for small retailers in terms of lack of space to store returned containers, hygiene issues, queuing and disruption.

Diane Brown, who owns Provender Brown in Perth, Scotland, called the plans “ridiculous” for small shops. 

“What are we meant to do with them? It’s impractical, unhygienic and we haven’t got room for them. Do we leave the counter to take them somewhere?”

Joanna Harper, joint owner of Top Barn Harvest Shop in Worcester, said: “I can imagine it’s a pain in the backside for most small businesses but we could cope with it because we already ask our customers to bring their packaging back to us for composting because we have compostable takeaway packaging.”

The store has also established a crisp packet recycling scheme. Harper said the downside was that a 20p deposit on drinks containers could result in lost sales because of the higher purchase price but one of the pros was the customer comes back.

Colin Borland, Federation of Small Business’ director of devolved nations, said: “A bottle deposit scheme is undoubtedly a popular idea. But it is understandable that those that run the very smallest shops have concerns about storage. 

“Ministers need to explain to those that run the smallest shops how this scheme will work for them.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We have declared a climate emergency. We want to act now and we would hope the UK government will share our ambition in terms of the scope of materials.”

This story appeared in the June issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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