Under proposals being looked at by the Scottish Parliament, such a scheme would require the widespread use of ‘reverse vending machines’, resulting in a considerable cost impact for manufacturers, Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), said.
According to Partington, more legislation would be a further blow to soft drinks manufacturers already reeling from the shock announcement of a tax on sugary soft drinks in the Spring Budget.
“Aside from the cost implications of reverse vending machines, manufacturers might have to produce separate SKUs [stock-keeping units] for Scotland, which may even necessitate the need for separate distribution centres,” he said.
“As an industry, we are clearly facing pressure over sugar right now – but the issue of deposit return schemes in Scotland is also something that could have very significant financial implications on the industry.”
Significant financial implications
Advocates of the deposit return system claimed it would encourage people to recycle more as they would receive money-off coupons on future purchases.
However, Partington believed current recycling measures on both sides of the border were “adequate enough” and added that BSDA – along with a number of other organisations – was lobbying against the move.
“Schemes like these operate in parts of Europe, but we do not feel they are right for the UK, because we have a very developed household recycling system.”
Partington’s comments come on the back of a reference to deposit and return schemes in the Scottish National Party’s pre-election manifesto, published before the Scottish elections on May 5.
The manifesto said: “Deposit and Return schemes can increase the amount of high quality material being brought forward for recycling and help to reduce litter.
‘End a throwaway culture’
“They attach a value to the materials and help end a throwaway culture. We will give further consideration to proposals for a deposit and return scheme.”
The Packaging Recycling Group Scotland (PRGS) – a new group of more than 30 trade organisations and companies from across the food and drink packaging supply chain – has also voiced its opposition to the move.
It said: “We remain committed to working with government to increase recycling and prevent litter. A regressive ‘bottle tax’ through a deposit and return scheme will not reduce littering in Scotland or improve overall recycling rates.”
According to PRGS, the Scottish government has already spent more than three years considering the issue and £1M of tax payers’ money trialling it.
Last year, over 80% of respondents to a Scottish government call for evidence opposed the introduction of a deposit return scheme.