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Scotland granted exemption from the Internal Market Act for its Deposit Return Scheme

Late this month, the UK government granted Scotland a temporary exclusion from the UK Internal Market Act meaning that Scotland’s plans to introduce its Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is still scheduled to go ahead on 1st March 2024, 7 months after the initial deadline of August 2023. However, the exclusion was not granted for glass drinks containers, despite Scotland’s plans to include glass in-scope of its DRS.

What is the Internal Market Act?

The Internal Market Act serves as a strategic policy initiative in the post-Brexit landscape, the policy aims to promote harmonious trade relations among the four UK nations. Due to the 20p deposit rate laid out in the Scottish DRS legislation, if an exemption from the act were not to be granted, the legal implication of this decision could have rendered the Scottish scheme inviable.

[...] for the success of DRS as a policy tool, harmonisation between the DRS’ and ensuring seamless consumer experiences is crucial to achieving its ambitious collection and recycling targets.

Martin Trigg-Knight

Director of Compliance Services

What materials does the exemption extend to?

The UK government has granted Scotland’s DRS an exemption from the Internal Market Act, however, this exemption only applies to PET plastic drinks containers and steel and aluminium cans. Notably this prevents Scotland from including glass drinks containers within the scope of its DRS as was Scotland’s original intention.

Additional conditions attached to this exemption mandate the prior agreement between the four nations on a maximum cap for deposits before the implementation of Scotland’s scheme, and the provision for consumers to return DRS containers in all four nations. This approach underscores the importance of consistency between the schemes as a crucial element of its success.

When will the rest of the UK’s Deposit Return Schemes go live?

As the timeline progresses, the scheduled implementation of Deposit Return Schemes in England, Northern Ireland and Wales is October 2025. The DRS frameworks devised for England and Northern Ireland does not include glass drinks containers however, Wales has expressed its intention to include glass within the scope of their DRS. The Welsh legal framework for DRS is not yet written, but exemption for Glass to be included in Welsh DRS now seems unlikely.

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