The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has urged the Scottish government to deliver a deposit return scheme (DRS) that works for the environment, the brewing industry, and the country’s pubs, ahead of the finalised regulations being released.

The scheme as currently proposed will see businesses in the hospitality industry receive less compensation for every container returned, compared to retail businesses.

Raising their concerns in a letter to the Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, the SBPA has said that this will not properly reflect the full cost of operating a DRS system for these businesses, and will see them once again unfairly penalised.

Town- and city-centre pubs, for example, where space is already at a premium, will face serious challenges in securely storing empty bottles and cans, ahead of collection for recycling. Many such outlets will be returning upwards of 500 bottles per week, all with a 20p value attached to them, and that will only be reimbursed on safe return.

Leaving unsecured cans and bottles outside pubs, as may happen now, will not be an option due to risk of theft, and this needs to be recognised and a solution found, says the SBPA.

In addition, key to continuing growth in the Scottish brewing sector is allowing an adequate run-up period before the commencement of the system. The current proposal of having the scheme start on April 1, 2021, presents significant logistical challenges that are unlikely to be met in the short time frame, the SBPA said.

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SBPA chief executive, Emma McClarkin, said: “There is no question that we all must make a concerted effort to reduce waste and improve the circular economy, and the SBPA backs the government’s ambitions for a world-leading deposit return scheme.

“However, to make the desired environmental change, it has to be workable for consumers and businesses. There still remain some serious challenges and inflexibility in the regulations as currently proposed, which risks the future success of the system.

“Protections must be given to our pubs, who have faced numerous headwinds over the last decade and have continually been asked to adapt whilst facing increased costs. We welcome that pubs that already operate a closed-loop system whereby empty containers are retained on the premises, do not need to charge on the deposit to consumers, or operate as a return point.

“However, these containers will now need to be stored separately and securely to ensure the publican can redeems deposits they will be charged. This requires additional space and associated cost, and the proposed hospitality fee does not reflect this.

“Brewers are also facing major challenges, with the current implementation date just over one year away, leaving little time for businesses to prepare for implementation for what is a major change to current operations. The regulations must give the scheme administrator all the levers it needs to meet the challenging recycling targets, without allowing Scotland’s brewers to continue to grow and thrive.”

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