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The deposit return scheme enacted in Scotland

05 June 2020
The Scottish Parliament has passed regulations enacting its "deposit return scheme" despite opposition from trade bodies. From July 2022, every time a drink in a single use container is sold in Scotland a 20 pence deposit will be added to its price. We consider some of the additional requirements contained in the final form of the regulations. 

On Thursday 14 May, the Scottish Parliament passed the final form of regulations to enact its "deposit return scheme" despite opposition from trade bodies. This means that from July 2022, every time a drink in a single use container is sold in Scotland a 20 pence deposit will be added to its price. 

In an earlier post, we highlighted the key takeaways from the draft regulations. These remain unchanged and so the purpose of this post is to outline some of the new, additional outcomes which the regulations – as passed by Parliament – now cover. 

What's new? 

The crucial elements of the scheme, including the start date, the drinks containers it covers, and the collection targets remain the same. However, some important additions have been made to the regulations, including the following: 

  • Duty to review – there is now a duty incumbent on Scottish ministers to review the scheme, before 1 October 2026. This has been added to the regulations following an Impact Assessment carried out by the Scottish Government. In reviewing the scheme, the ministers must pay particular attention to the following areas: the deposit level; the materials included under the scheme (that is, whether the definition of a 'scheme article' should be narrower or broadened); and the collection targets. The collection targets are ambitious (set at 90% for 2025); it seems unlikely that any government would want to lower these targets.  
  • The 'reasonableness' requirement – there were, in the draft regulations, a number of grounds under which retailers could refuse to accept the return of scheme articles. his has been expanded to include situations where the number of articles being returned is disproportionately greater than the amount the retailer sells in a normal transaction. For example, if a small retailer sold, on average, 2 scheme articles, it would likely be unreasonable to expect them to accept the return of 20 scheme articles. This is the so-called 'reasonableness' requirement. 
  • Scheme administrators – as mentioned previously, it is envisaged that most producers will appoint scheme administrators to manage the scheme on their behalf. The scheme administrator will become responsible for the day-to-day management of the scheme, becoming the point of contact for retailers and producers. It is anticipated that the scheme will be industry-led, with regulatory oversight being provided by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. The government expects to provide details shortly about how to become a scheme administrator – it is anticipated that scheme administrators will be private sector, not-for-profit organisations. A demonstrable degree of business permanence will be expected for those proposing to act as a scheme administrator.  Evidence will require to be provided that the scheme administrator is likely to exist for at least five years. Further information is available here > 
  • Voluntary return point operators – there are provisions that allow voluntary groups that fall outside the definition of a 'retailer' to act as return point operators. Voluntary groups must register to do so, in line with the scheme requirements. It is hoped that community groups, such as the Scouts or Guides, might offer to act as return points. It is not immediately clear how this would work in practice, however it would appear that the Scottish Government is keen to push forward with this possibility. 

If you have any questions related to this article please get in touch with Caroline Colliston.

Authors: Caroline Colliston and Ruairidh Morrison

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