Bottle deposit scheme:MSPs suggest a 'variable rate'

Scotland's deposit return scheme should have scope for a "variable rate" on charges for drinks containers, MSPs have said.

In May the Scottish government announced a fixed deposit of 20p would be added to some plastic, metal and glass drinks containers.

MSPs have now said larger bottles could incur a higher charge.

It follows advice that a flat rate levy could encourage sales of larger sizes or plastic bottles instead of cans.

The scheme is being brought in by the Scottish government as part of efforts to increase recycling.

Consumers will be able to recoup any deposit they pay by taking their empty containers to designated collection points many of which will make use of “reverse vending machines”.

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s environment, climate change and land reform committee said the scheme should be “as comprehensive as possible”.

They said they were “content” with the proposed 20p deposit, but suggested the scheme’s administrator should have the scope to vary this.

Consequences

Last month the aluminium packaging industry said consumers would have to pay a £4.80 charge for a 24-can pack of soft drinks – and predicted that many would switch to buying four two-litre bottles, which would carry only an 80p deposit.

In a new report on the draft regulations, MSPs noted the “potential unintended consequences on plastics use and health impacts”.

They said: “The committee considers that there should be scope for the scheme administrator to set a variable rate, for example, based on product size.

“Variable rates could be used in a number of ways to discourage materials switching or other unintended consequences, with 20 pence being the minimum level of deposit.”

They asked ministers to set out an “indication of the likely time-frame for extension of the scheme”.

The scheme was due to launch in Scotland in 2021, although experts have cast doubt on that timetable.

MSPs also wanted to know if the Scottish government can compel online retailers based outside of Scotland to participate in the initiative, and asked ministers to ensure the level of the deposit does not “adversely impact” poorer Scots.

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