Concerns over impact of deposit return scheme on Western Isles retailers

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Concerns over the impact of the Scottish government’s proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) on small local retailers in the islands, and the costs for island local authorities in delivering the scheme, have been raised by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

In a statement, the Comhairle has warned that island retailers could face increased costs and cash flow problems as a result of the administration of the scheme, which will offer a cash return to customers when they return their drinks containers.

The DRS aims to significantly increase recycling rates and reduce litter, but the Comhairle has warned that the additional costs for island authorities in returning containers to mainland collection points has to be recognised in the government’s plan.

A Comhairle spokesperson said: “It will be essential that small remote island retailers are not disadvantaged in any way by DRS. This will require an efficient collection service from their premises, a robust and straightforward means to record containers that they have accepted, and a financial payment system that does not result in cash flow problems for these small retailers.

“Previous schemes to apply producer responsibility to containers have allowed recycling targets to be met by recovering containers on the mainland, leaving island local authorities to meet higher transport costs without any proportional financial support.

“The costs of collecting and transporting containers on the Islands will be expensive, but the Scheme Administrator must not be allowed to provide an inferior service on the grounds of costs or the small quantity of materials.”

The Comhairle’s spokesperson concluded: “We also welcome the Island-proofing of this legislation. It will be the first to be tested in this way against the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018.”

Replying to the Comhairle’s concerns, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We continue to make progress with plans to implement our ambitious Deposit Return Scheme as part of our response to the global climate emergency.

“To ensure island voices are represented throughout the implementation process, Zero Waste Scotland will establish an Islands Forum which will help produce an Islands Impact Assessment. This will allow us to consider and address issues specific to our island communities.

“Retailers operating return points will receive a handling fee to cover costs they incur through participating in DRS. We are continuing to work with businesses, including small retailers, to ensure we implement the scheme in the best way possible.”

The Scottish Government aims for the system to become live in 2021.