On 27 May, the UK Government granted Scotland a temporary exclusion from the UK Internal Market Act, ensuring plans to implement its deposit return schemes (DRS) can go ahead in March 2024 - a delayed implementation date previously set for August this year.
The Act, which was implemented post EU-exit, seeks to ensure there are no trade barriers between the four UK nations. The 20p deposit rate legislated in the Scottish DRS would have constituted a barrier, meaning if the exemption had not been granted it was unclear how the scheme could have been launched without legal implications.
Glass excluded from exemption
Controversially, the exemption only extends to PET plastic and steel and aluminium cans, threatening the design of the scheme as glass bottles are also legislated to be in-scope in Scotland. Other conditions of the exemptions include the provision that before the DRS is launched, the four nations must agree on a maximum cap for deposit levels, and that systems must allow for consumers to return in-scope containers in any nation.
The Scottish First Minister, Humza Yousef, has said “Not only is it bad in terms of devolution and self-government, it’s really poor for the environment. If we don’t include glass that’s 600 million bottles that won’t be removed from our streets, our beaches and our parks.”
A DRS in the rest of the UK is currently planned to be implemented in 2025. Whereas Wales have also indicated they would include glass in the system, England and Northern Ireland will not, representing further regulatory misalignment and potential difficulties in implementation.
It’s likely that the announcement will soon be followed by a formal response from the Scottish Government. The exemption will apply until the whole of the UK has operational DRS.
If you are affected by the Deposit Return Schemes and need further guidance, Ecosurety can assist you through data assurance and analysis, including cost forecasting to model how your business will be impacted so that you can be fully prepared. Request DRS support today.