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Stirling businesses raise concerns over Deposit Return Scheme

7 mins read

Stirlingshire hospitality businesses have voiced their concerns over Scotland’s upcoming Deposit Return Scheme.

Customers will be charged a 20p deposit on drinks in a single use container made of plastic, steel, aluminium or glass. Once the bottle or can is returned, the deposit will be given back.

The scheme is due to go live on August 16, 2023, after being delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It aims to have a 90 per cent collection rate by 2025.

Similar schemes in Sweden, Slovakia and other European countries are highly successful in tackling littering and increasing recycling. In early November, Orkney launched a pilot version.

However, more than 500 businesses have signed an open letter to the Scottish Government asking for a delay and revision of the plan.

Aluminium drinks cans.
Tops of cans. Image credit: Breakingpic via Pexels

One of the first businesses to sign the open letter of concern was The Real Food Café in Tyndrum.

Director and founder Sarah Heward said: “We have grave concerns about the Deposit Return Scheme, not because it’s not an idea with merit, but because of the scant information and preparedness for a scheme which will be legally mandated on 16 August 2023.

“The implementation date alone, set for the middle of the Edinburgh Festival and peak summer season for rural and coastal businesses, should give anyone with even the remotest engagement in Scottish hospitality and tourism cause for serious concern.

“As a business, we have a policy of never doing anything in our business during July and August other than focus on serving the customers.”

The latest conference for the scheme was held by Circularity Scotland and garnered more than 600 business representatives but had no virtual attendance option. Sending one member of staff cost the business two working days, travel expenses and hotel costs.

A drone shot of a cafe and car park.
The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum. Image credit: The Real Food Cafe

Heward said: “As a business, we don’t have anything like enough information to know exactly how the Deposit Return Scheme will impact us financially or operationally as there is still lots of detail to be worked out.

“Furthermore, I don’t believe that the majority of small rural businesses are even aware of the looming DRS. Most independent hospitality and tourism businesses are too busy trying to cope with staff shortages and all the other well known challenges facing us.

“In summary, it’s our view that the Scottish Government is not responsible for getting every business through the cost of doing business crisis.

“However, they have a duty to create the best environment possible for us to succeed and this means that they should not be putting ill thought through obstacles in our path and making life harder.

“Finally, we believe that the principle is a good idea but pushing it through in a poorly planned manner in the midst of a deep economic crisis is not sensible.

“This seems like a lost opportunity because planned properly it could be a real asset to Scotland and the environment.”

The Real Food Café supports climate change action, recycling and litter reduction. In 2022, they collected more than one tonne of roadside rubbish as part of their litterpick initiatives and gave free food as a reward for participants.

The Kilted Kangaroo shop front.
Kilted Kangaroo in Stirling. Image credit: Brig Newspaper

The Kilted Kangaroo – an Australian-themed pub in Stirling’s city centre – voiced similar concerns.

Director Andrew Mitchell said: “It appears to be yet another ill-thought-out scheme foisted upon an already struggling hospitality industry by the Scottish Government.

“As it is, we handle well over a hundred thousand bottles and cans each year. These are stored in bins and collected twice a week by a local firm that employs local people to take them away to be crushed and recycled.

“The scheme will see us having to clean, store, and sort these bottles and cans ultimately to be collected by a national firm, to go away and be crushed and recycled. It seems like an unnecessary addition of a cog in a wheel that already works.

“We’re all for recycling but can’t help feeling that this new scheme would be better suited to a retailer environment, where the product is not consumed on the selling premises and the onus is on the end user to recycle.

“Much like the old Barr’s scheme whereby you got up to 20p back on a bottle when you returned it to the shop. These are the bottles or cans that end up in general waste bins, in hedgerows and blowing around the countryside, not an empty bottle of Budweiser bought in your local pub.

“It feels like only yesterday we were being told that plastic was bad and that going back to glass was the best for the environment.

“Now, because of this scheme, we’re seeing companies coming up with means of getting round the Deposit Return Scheme with single use plastic lined paper products designed to be consumed and straight in the bin.”

The Scottish Government insist that there will be “no turning back” and that they are listening to industry concerns.

Featured image credit: Sainsbury’s

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Editor-in-Chief of Brig Newspaper. Final year film, media and journalism student.

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