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Scotland's DRS delayed until March 2024

GS1 UK CEO Anne Godfrey shares our thoughts on how the extended timeline presents a valuable opportunity to ensure Scotland's DRS delivers on its aims. 

plastic bottle put in recycle bin

The next 11 months present a valuable opportunity for increased collaboration to ensure that the UK's first Deposit Return Scheme leads the way and delivers on its aims.

GS1 UK has continually been calling for a harmonised approach that provides clarity and consistency for all involved and hope that the Scottish government's decision to delay implementation until March 2024 reflects a commitment to listen to, and act on, concerns that have been voiced by industry since plans for the scheme were first announced.

Government, industry and consumers share a common need for one solution that will not only reduce the significant environmental damage caused by packaging waste, but will protect the interests of businesses, support cross-border trade, maintain consumer choice and provide the flexibility required to adapt and evolve over time.

While the window of opportunity for getting this right remains open, time is still running out. There are many issues surrounding implementation that must be urgently addressed and this can only be achieved through collaboration. Government must use the time that is left wisely by coming to the table and working with industry. Otherwise, we risk recycling the same challenges again and again as this new deadline approaches.

GS1 UK remains committed to supporting successful implementation. We know how effective DRS models can be, as proven by the wide variety of schemes that are successfully operating across Europe and beyond, as well as pioneering pilots that have driven some great results here in the UK.

We firmly believe that the best way forwards is a four nations approach and hope that the Scottish government will consider using the extended timeline as an opportunity to align more closely with the schemes planned for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We urge them to reconsider the inclusion of glass which, as demonstrated by numerous international schemes, could help to reduce the additional costs and complexities currently facing Scottish businesses and their consumers, at a time when that is the last thing they need.

A harmonised, flexible and future-proofed approach is essential, but the scheme’s success will ultimately be determined by consumers. Without widespread adoption, DRS will be at best a missed opportunity, at worst a highly expensive failure. Our research has revealed that awareness levels present another key challenge. Not only do we call on government to carefully factor the needs of consumers into the design of their scheme, but also hope they will significantly increase communication and education to make sure consumers are kept informed, know how to participate and understands their role in protecting the planet.

It is highly encouraging that the First Minister has recognised the need to reconsider current proposals and we offer our continued support to ensure this opportunity is not wasted. We look forward to collaborating with our partners across industry and government to deliver the scheme that Scotland deserves and remain confident that we have a real opportunity to radically boost recycling rates across the UK.

 Anne Godfrey

Anne Godfrey


Opinion piece