Beer company lashes out at bottle deposit scheme

One of Scotland’s most recognizable drink brands is one of hundreds that have failed to join a controversial new bottle recycling scheme.

Dougal Sharp, the founder of Innis and Gunn, questioned the legality of the scheme and expressed concerns about the cost to businesses and consumers.

Before Tuesday’s deadline, a total of 664 producers had registered for the deposit scheme.

It was initially estimated that about 4,500 producers would need to register.

However, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that the number had now been revised to “less than 2,000”.

She said the companies that have registered are responsible for 95% of drinks sold in single-use containers in Scotland.

The scheme aims to encourage recycling through a 20p deposit on single-use bottles and cans.

Registration is now open until the launch of the scheme on 16 August.

Mr Sharp told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland program there were too many unanswered questions about the scheme, including whether or not it was legal.

The brewer said he sought advice from lawyers before deciding not to sign before a deadline on Tuesday.

He said many companies “felt they had no choice” to take part in the scheme as it would affect their ability to trade in Scotland from August 16.

But he feared the scheme “would put enormous price pressure on consumers”.

“A four-pack of our lager could go from £5 to £7 – I think that’s a scandal in the midst of the biggest cost-of-living crisis we can remember,” he said.

Mr Sharp questions the availability of return machines

Under the scheme, a 20 pence deposit will be added to all single-use PET plastic, metal or glass beverage containers.

Consumers can request a refund by returning the container to retailers and catering establishments that sell such disposable products to take away.

“You get some of that money back, but you don’t get all of it back,” Mr Sharp said.

“My big fear is that there aren’t enough vending machines for people to return their cans and bottles to, and if there aren’t, how do you get a refund?”

All three contenders for the SNP’s leadership have said the plan will not proceed in its current form.

Kate Forbes and Ash Regan want to break the scheme, while Humza Yousaf said he would exempt smaller companies for a year.

But Mr Sharp said he wants it dumped.

“The plan is going to destroy the existing one [recycling] infrastructure and create new infrastructure,” he said.

“If that’s not a waste, I don’t know what is. I think there are better ways to do it.”

He said some money from drink sales should be set aside to invest more in Scotland’s existing recycling industry rather than the new scheme.

Secretary Lorna Slater

Secretary Lorna Slater

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said the scheme will still start as scheduled on August 16 and registration for producers will be open until then.

The Scottish Greens co-leader said industry had been challenged to “do their part to tackle the climate crisis”, but she understood there were concerns for small producers that the government was “systematically solving”.

Speaking in Holyrood on Thursday, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called the plan a “complete disaster”.

He said the voices of companies across Scotland were being ignored.

During the prime minister’s questions, he asked Nicola Sturgeon to clarify how many companies should have applied before Tuesday’s deadline.

Ms Sturgeon said: “At the start of the introduction of this scheme, it was estimated that there were around 4,500.

“However, there will be significantly less to register, because once groups of companies registering under one registration are identified, the estimated number of individual producers/importers will be below 2,000.”

She added: “The vast majority of the product is actually produced by a relatively small number of producers.

“As of yesterday, more than 90% of the product and the market has been covered and that is the crucial point. If it were the other way around, it would be a problem.”

Circularity Scotland CEO David Harris told BBC Scotland there was “misinformation” and “misunderstandings” about Scotland’s plan.

He urges anyone who believes their business will be affected by these regulations to contact Circularity Scotland.

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