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By capturing an estimated 294 million glass bottles each year, the deposit return scheme will cut carbon emissions by more than 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent over a 25-year period and reduce a common form of litter. It will also make more high-quality glass available for recycling. A high proportion of that is projected to be flint or clear glass, which is in high demand from Scotland’s premium drinks industry.
In May, Ewan MacDonald-Russell of the Scottish Retail Consortium raised concerns that the inclusion of glass in the scheme would add £50 million a year in costs, which would end up being paid by the consumer. He said:
“Glass is a difficult, bulky, and heavy material to manage and will be an enormous burden, especially for those operating from smaller stores.”
As Finlay Carson is on the relevant committee, he is already actively involved in the process of the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020 going through Parliament. The committee is the right place for many of the questions on the issue.
I am conscious that glass manufacturers and the glass lobby have been active on the subject, but I think that I made it clear from the outset that we understand that there are more issues with glass than with plastic and aluminium.
From our perspective, the issue is that, if we do not include glass in the scheme at this stage, we will not be in a position to include it in the future. Therefore, now is the once-and-for-all decision-making time.
I also point to the fact that a number of other countries collect glass in a deposit return system. I hope that, throughout the process of the deposit return scheme regulations going through Parliament, a lot of the specific issues that have been raised will be teased out and thought through carefully. The positive impact that including glass will have on Scotland will also be taken into account.
In passing, I note that the Scottish Conservatives also wanted glass to be included.
I met my counterparts in the UK Government a number of times to discuss deposit return issues, including timing, and officials have continued that engagement.
Unfortunately, the recent reshuffle took out the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister; she was promoted into another job. There has therefore been a bit of a continuity disjunct and I am still trying to establish who the new minister will be.
I have been clear that we are open to working with the other nations to ensure compatibility. I have encouraged DEFRA to match our ambitions. It should be noted that the UK Government has yet to commit to introducing the DRS, and our climate change commitments mean that it is not an option for us to wait in the hope that others will follow the example that we are now setting.