UK ministers reject SNP’s DRS request leaving scheme in doubt



UK ministers have rejected the first minister’s request for the UK government to reverse its decision that Scotland must exclude glass from its deposit return scheme (DRS).

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.

Speaking to the BBC, the first minister said his deadline was “effectively” an ultimatum. 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.

The UK government has now replied to Yousaf’s letter saying it has provided the Scottish government with a “practical solution to proceed” with metal single-use drinks containers and PET plastics.

The Scottish cabinet is expected to meet later today (6 June) to make a decision on whether the scheme will proceed.

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.

Circularity Scotland, the scheme’s administrator, has insisted the groundwork is in place for the scheme to still go live as planned on 1 March 2024 without glass.

The exclusion of glass also ensures consumer choice is not restricted in Scotland.

Replying on behalf of the prime minister, cabinet ministers Michael Gove, Alister Jack and Thérèse Coffey, wrote: “In your letter of June 2, you note that Scottish businesses may face a competitive disadvantage due to the exclusion of glass from the scheme.  

“Interoperability of schemes across the whole UK ensures all manufacturers, whether in Clydebank, Carlisle, Cardiff, or Carrickfergus, have the same access to sell their products across the UK internal market.  

“The exclusion of glass also ensures consumer choice is not restricted in Scotland, given the risk that differences in scope would have led to some producers choosing not to supply Scotland through online or physical sales. 

“As we have granted a UKIM exclusion, there is nothing to prevent you from proceeding with your own scheme next March, on the basis that it would form part of a UK-wide solution to protect our shared market and increase recycling from 2025.”

As it stands this Conservative government is reneging on its 2019 manifesto commitment.

Reacting to the developments, Steve Hynd, City to Sea’s Policy Manager, said: “Politicians need to stop posturing and comparing the size of their DRSs and instead focus on what we know works for people and planet.

“A UK-wide DRS that includes all materials, including glass, has been shown to not only massively drive up recycling rates and reduce littering, but it can also lay the foundations for a reuse economy.

“As it stands this Conservative government is reneging on its 2019 manifesto commitment. It is ignoring the results of its own consultation. And it is standing in the face of all the evidence from the existing DRSs operating around the world that have been shown to be most successful when they cover all size and material types.”

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