Scotland’s deposit return scheme may not be in place until 2023, a government minister appeared to hint.
Richard Lochhead, the just transition minister within the Scottish Government, said it “would have been good to have it in place this year or next year” – possibly implying that the scheme may not be introduced until after 2022.
Lorna Slater, the Green circular economy minister, has already failed to commit to meeting the already delayed start date for the environmental initiative – which was due to come in from July 2022.
That date had been pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic, with Ms Slater only telling MSPs that ministers want to bring in deposit return “as quickly as practically possible”.
Under the proposals, shoppers will pay a 20p deposit when buying drinks in cans and bottles, with the money returned to them when they return the empty containers for recycling.
Speaking at a fringe event at the SNP conference, Mr Lochhead – who previously served as environment, food and rural affairs secretary in the Scottish Government – insisted that the scheme would be a “gamechanger”.
He insisted that ministers were “absolutely determined to introduce a deposit return scheme”, adding that a “lot of the building blocks” for it have already been put in place already.
But he added “some issues” had arisen, saying talks were taking place with the UK Government over the application of VAT on deposits.
“We’re trying to iron that out with the UK Government,” Mr Lochhead said.
Speaking about deposit return, he added: “It is a gamechanger, it would have been good to have in it place this year or next year, but the point is it is going to come into play, it is going to happen in Scotland and it is going to be a gamechanger.
“We will get it, even if it is delayed for a couple of years.”
His comments came as a senior representative from Coca-Cola reiterated the firm’s support for deposit return.
Jim Fox, the head of public affairs at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, said: “We want to get all of our packaging back, we want to use it again and again, that is why we are so supportive of a deposit return system.”
With Prime Minister Boris Johnson having recently accused Coca-Cola of being one of 12 corporations responsible for “producing the overwhelming bulk of the world’s plastics”, Mr Fox said: “We’ve got a lot more packaging than a lot of other people because we’re a bigger company than a lot of other companies. But we are the ones pushing for more and more progress.”
He told the event that the soft-drinks giant was “reducing our plastics considerably”, saying: “We don’t think that we should be using virgin plastic anymore and we hope to be able to avoid that in the next two to three years.”
He added that the drinks manufacturer was also trialling reusable and refillable packaging with some retailers.