Biffa strongly calls for Scottish DRS to proceed as planned



Cancelling or significantly delaying Scotland’s deposit return scheme would send a “seismic and detrimental signal” to businesses involved, Biffa CEO Michael Topham has told the first minister.

At the time of the writing, the future of Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) is up in the air following the UK government rejecting the first minister Humza Yousaf’s request for it to reverse the decision that Scotland must exclude glass from the scheme.

The Scottish cabinet was expected to meet on Tuesday (6 June) to decide on whether the scheme will proceed. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Yousaf said removing glass from the scheme has put the future of DRS in “grave danger” in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Now, Biffa, the logistics partner for the scheme, has called on the first minister to proceed with the scheme without glass. Topham told the first minister that, while the position of the UK government is no doubt unwelcome, he “strongly believes” that the best course of action is to proceed with the scheme without further delay.

In the letter, Topham also said that Biffa has invested over £65 million in property, vehicles and counting equipment for the DRS.

Topham’s letter follows Circularity Scotland, which was appointed as the scheme administrator by the Scottish government, insisting the groundwork is in place for the scheme to still go live as planned on 1 March 2024 without glass and that Scotland and the UK cannot afford to lose the DRS. Topham also told Yousaf that Biffa has worked with Circularity Scotland to mitigate the impact excluding glass will have on the scheme.

In my view, the ramifications of this will be significant.

In a letter to the first minister, Biffa CEO Michael Topham said any decision to cancel or significantly delay the scheme beyond March 2024 would “completely undermine” the Scottish government’s position as a legislator that can be relied upon.

Topham continued that a delay to the scheme would send a “seismic and detrimental” signal to all the businesses that are in principle willing to commit resources to help the Scottish government deliver on its ambitions.

“In my view, the ramifications of this will be significant. Not only in terms of the urgent and immediate need for many businesses, who have invested in the scheme in good faith, to protect their financial position but also in terms of attracting long-term outside investment in Scottish green infrastructure and related schemes in the future,” Topham wrote.

Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf, who has previously accused the UK government of trying to “scupper” the scheme, has said Scotland’s DRS is at risk and set a deadline of yesterday (5 June) for the UK government to withdraw its demand that Scotland excludes glass from the scheme.

On 27 May, the UK government announced it had agreed to a temporary exclusion from the UK Internal Market Act to enable the Scottish DRS to launch next year. However, the exclusion will only cover PET plastic, aluminium and steel cans, which means glass cannot be included in the scheme.

Our logistics contract for DRS includes an obligation to reduce carbon activity for the delivery of the service.

Earlier this year, Biffa announced it was investing £7.7 million to create a state-of-the-art recycling centre, which it says will create up to 60 jobs in Aberdeen and play a “pivotal role” in Scotland’s DRS.

The Resource Management Association Scotland (RMAS) has criticised Circularity Scotland’s decision to appoint Biffa as the scheme’s logistics service provider saying it will “decimate” smaller waste operators and increase CO2 emissions.

In response, a Biffa spokesperson told Circular Online: “Our logistics contract for DRS includes an obligation to reduce carbon activity for the delivery of the service. The wider scheme also aims to ensure that at least 90% of recyclable drinks containers are captured and prevented from becoming waste. That’s more than two billion bottles and cans every year.”

The spokesperson also said Biffa is “actively engaged” with several small and medium organisations in Scotland to help deliver parts of the scheme.

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