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Chamber and committees

Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, March 14, 2023


Deposit Return Scheme

The Convener

Welcome back. Our next item is an evidence session on Scotland’s deposit return scheme. I refer members to the papers for this item.

At the committee’s last meeting on 7 March, we agreed to take evidence from the Scottish Government on the DRS, and to hear from Circularity Scotland, the scheme administrator, at a meeting in the near future. The purpose of these sessions is to ascertain key information about the scheme’s readiness for launch on 16 August this year.

I am pleased to welcome back Lorna Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity. I also welcome Kevin Quinlan, director, environment and forestry, Scottish Government; and Euan Page, head of UK frameworks, Scottish Government.

Minister, before we begin, I believe that you would like to make a brief opening statement.

Lorna Slater

I welcome the opportunity to address the committee on Scotland’s deposit return scheme. When we launch the DRS on 16 August, the scheme will be among the most environmentally ambitious and accessible in Europe. It will increase recycling rates from 50 per cent to 90 per cent, reduce littering on our streets by one third, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 4 million tonnes over 25 years.

We are at an advanced stage of preparation for launch, with much of the infrastructure for the scheme already in place. Approximately £300 million of private investment has been made, counting and sorting centres are being created, vehicle fleets have been ordered and recruitment is under way.

As at 10 March, 671 producers, across the full range of drink producers—from global brands to small craft breweries and distilleries—representing 95 per cent of the total volume of drinks containers sold in Scotland each year, have completed registration for the DRS with Circularity Scotland. I am delighted that so many producers have already stepped up to the challenge to take responsibility for the waste that they produce.

The scheme will also create 500 jobs across the country, with 140 new jobs at a recycling plant in Motherwell and 70 jobs in Aberdeen already announced. This month, we have also seen the launch of registration for return point operators. That includes supermarkets, local shops and other outlets where customers can return their empty containers and reclaim their deposit.

We previously updated guidance and support to make it easier and quicker for retailers that wish to apply for an exemption from being a return point to do so. That was in response to direct feedback from retailers—particularly smaller retailers. Exemptions can be sought on the grounds of proximity, where agreement has been made with other nearby return points, and on environmental health grounds—for example, if there is not space to store returned containers.

I recently wrote to the convener of the committee to provide an update on the work that has been undertaken to secure an exclusion from the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. As set out in that letter, UK Government ministers acknowledged that the Scottish Government has followed the agreed process at all times.

I take this opportunity to again confirm that we have been following the agreed and established process between the UK Government and devolved Governments for excluding certain areas from the internal market act since 2021. We expect a decision from the UK Government as soon as possible, and I will continue to keep the committee updated.

I will continue to work collaboratively with Circularity Scotland and businesses as they finalise their operational delivery plans and as we move closer to the launch of the DRS in August. I welcome the opportunity to assist the committee in its considerations, and I look forward to questions.

The Convener

Thank you, minister. The first question is from me. In my six years in the Parliament, I do not think that I have ever come across legislation that caused so many problems as it was being introduced. What is the problem, as you see it? I am then going to ask you how you will solve it.

Lorna Slater

I actually think that the problem is largely because of misunderstanding of what the scheme is and how it operates. The scheme is moving toward launch, and we have that big milestone of 95 per cent of the market, by volume, being signed up to the scheme.

The scheme is a producer responsibility scheme. That means that producers of the materials that we are collecting—the people who profit from those materials—need to ante up. They need to put it on the line and say, “Yes, we are now going to be responsible for collecting the materials, sorting them, and making sure that they are recycled properly.” That is a big shift, from using public money to do that work to putting it back on the producers. Producers that produce an enormous market volume—as I have said, it represents 95 per cent of the market—have signed on the dotted line and said, “Yes, we’re stepping up.” That is a huge milestone.

The next significant milestone is getting the return points signed up. Once Circularity Scotland and Biffa know where the return points are and how many items they expect from each return point, they can finalise their collection schedules. Circularity Scotland and Biffa are working towards the 16 August launch date.

All those pieces of the puzzle are under way. That is what we need to get the scheme launched. I know that there are still concerns among some small producers about how they participate in the scheme. We are working with them, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Circularity Scotland to bring them on board so that they can continue to supply the Scottish market.

The Convener

Okay. If the biggest problem is “misunderstanding”, to use your word, somebody has failed to explain the scheme to the people concerned. Do you have enough time to explain it to those people before the launch in August?

Lorna Slater

The communications between Circularity Scotland, SEPA and businesses are under way and on-going. I think that some of the frustration results from things that are being reported in the media, including the press, which are simply not accurate. The correct way to get the right information that businesses need is to go directly to Circularity Scotland, and we are signposting people to that organisation.

Circularity Scotland is employing a communications expert to support the communications with businesses. It has held workshops throughout the country with businesses to help them to understand their role in the scheme, it has an excellent website, and it has call handlers who can answer phone calls and emails at all hours of the day and night. I recommend that any businesses that are not clear about their role should, instead of reading something on Twitter, get in contact with Circularity Scotland to get the right information that they need.

The Convener

I am not sure that businesses base their decisions on what is on Twitter.

On the misunderstanding at the business level, I think that the public have signed up to getting deposit returns working. However, when I go to a supermarket—as I did on Saturday—to buy some bottled water, 24 small bottles of water cost £3. That will become £7.80, which is quite a change to my or to anyone else’s shopping basket. Do you think that the public misunderstand the scheme or that they fully understand what is coming down to them?

Lorna Slater

Whenever the public are asked about such schemes, they are always very enthusiastic about them. Generally, such schemes have broad public support. Schemes like ours work very well in other countries. They are very straightforward and well understood. In fact, people in this country are often nostalgic. They have memories of similar schemes that ran when they were young in which they returned their bottles to get their money back.

When someone buys bottles or cans, the cost of 20p is added to each bottle or can. People can, of course, get that money back when they return those materials. Therefore, there is a net neutral cost to the consumer when they purchase those materials.

I am nostalgic about returning other people’s bottles, as well, although that might have been fraud. I am sure that somebody will come on to that in the questions.

I have questions about producer registration. The initial deadline was 1 March. Is it correct that extending that would require a change in the regulations?

That would be required to extend the deadline. However, late applications are being accepted. That has not been a hard cut-off. Businesses can still apply, and they continue to do so.

When will that continue until?

Lorna Slater

That is indefinite, in that any business that wants to sell in Scotland in any particular year needs to be signed up by 1 March of that year. For the first year of the scheme, we are allowing late applications to support businesses to come online with it.

Any businesses that are not registered in time for the scheme launch will not be able to supply in Scotland, so we encourage them to get going. However, in future years, when new start-up businesses in Scotland wish to sell in the Scottish market, they will also need to apply for the scheme. As new businesses come into the Scottish market, they can sign up for the scheme, on an on-going basis, so that they can sell in Scotland.


Is 1 March next year a hard deadline, or will there be a deadline every year?

Lorna Slater

I believe that the regulations have that March deadline every year. That is to allow time for businesses to be operationally included. However, for this year, I believe that late applications will still be accepted.

The intention is not to be punitive to businesses. Businesses need to sign up for the scheme. They need to give the information about how many products they have and the labelling, so that there is time to programme the reverse-vending machines. When you take your bottle or can back, the machine will scan the barcode and say, “Yes, you bought this in Scotland, it is a scheme article, so here’s your 20p back.” The point of registration is for businesses to say, “Here are my barcodes and here are my products,” so that we can then programme all the vending machines in Scotland to be able to take those back. The reason why there is a deadline is to allow time for that work to be done. That is why businesses need to register as soon as possible—so that their barcodes can be registered with the machines.

I understand that there was consideration of a potential grace period for small producers. Are we now in that period, or are you still considering that?

Lorna Slater

We are looking at a variety of measures to support small producers. As I outlined in my answer to the convener, although hundreds of producers are signed up, there are some who have not yet signed up. We are digging into the detail of what the challenges are there. In response to conversation with those producers, Circularity Scotland has already put in place considerable cash flow measures—£22 million-worth of measures have been put in to reduce up-front costs and help with cash flow, because that was identified as a barrier.

Another identified barrier for small producers was labelling. Getting their bottles redesigned with a different barcode requires minimum order quantities and it takes a long time. To remove that barrier, Circularity Scotland will be issuing sticky labels to producers. When they have fewer than 25,000 of any particular product, they can get those labels from Circularity Scotland. They will kind of already be pre-registered, because the labels will have been issued to them.

Those are two—

So getting those sticky labels will be instead of the producer being required to register, or would they need to register to get the labels?

Lorna Slater

They need to register, but they can go through the process to get those labels. It was identified that redesigning packaging on the timescale given was a barrier to businesses, and Circularity Scotland came up with that really practical labelling solution so that that is no longer a barrier.

We are looking at what else we need to do with regard to the producers who have not signed up. Do they understand the package of measures that are on the table? I know that the committee took evidence from—

I am sorry to interrupt. I think that there will be questions later in the meeting about labelling, particularly for small producers so, if you would not mind, let us stick with the questions on registration.

Lorna Slater

That is what we are looking at—understanding the barriers to registration.

Some small producers have asked us to consider a grace period. That would not be a grace period for registration, so they still need to register but, hypothetically, a grace period for implementation. There are some big challenges with that. It might not be fair to medium-sized producers or the small producers that have signed up. Therefore, we need to take a step back again. We know that hundreds of small producers have signed up, so this barrier is clearly not universal. For the businesses that have not signed up, we need to look at what their challenges are and make sure that we are putting in place the right measures to help them get on board.

Mercedes Villalba

The deadline to register has passed, but registrations are still being accepted. Does that mean that producers who have not registered by 16 August, which is the launch date, will not be permitted to sell their items in the Scottish market?

That is correct. That is normal for such schemes.

Mercedes Villalba

Are you considering a grace period from that point—from 16 August—or is that the hard cut-off? Is there still time to register up until 16 August, or would you allow registrations after 16 August? Can producers sell their products if they are in the middle of the registration process after 16 August?

Lorna Slater

The final date by which SEPA needs to receive completed registrations is 30 June 2023—registrations must be completed by that date.

I encourage all producers to start their registration before then, because the registration process is reasonably detailed. Producers have to enter all their products, the details of their barcodes and so on, and SEPA needs time to process the applications and publish the register of producers before the scheme goes live on 16 August. Retailers need to know which products they can continue to carry by 16 August. Therefore, SEPA needs to publish a list that shows all the producers that can continue to sell in Scotland, to ensure that retailers comply with the legislation.

SEPA has said that it will be very pragmatic in how it implements that, and I support that, because we want to ensure that businesses are on a pathway to compliance. I said that we are looking at how we can bring on board small producers who have not yet registered, and one thing that we are in discussions about in relation to that is working out what the pathway to compliance will look like for each business.

Each business is quite different and has different requirements and barriers, and we do not intend to be punitive or come after businesses—that is not the idea. The idea is to support businesses to comply with the scheme, because we want businesses to continue to be able to sell in Scotland, and we want them to understand their obligations under the scheme, and, in fact, to take advantage of it. Clearly, for businesses that are registered with the scheme and can continue to be stocked, that will be a competitive advantage.

Mercedes Villalba

Finally on that topic, if a producer registers after 30 June, would its registration be considered for the following year—because you said that the deadline is 1 March each year—or could the registration be processed to get their products on to the market in the current year?

Lorna Slater

We would have to consider exactly what would happen in that situation. I am happy to write to the member with details on exactly how that would work.

Clearly, the business registrations process has to be on-going, because new businesses start up all the time, so that is necessary, but I am happy to write to the member with detail on exactly how that will work and on what the delay will be between being registered and being able to sell on the Scottish market.

Minister, I just remind you to write to the committee, if you would not mind.

Sorry—I will write to the committee.

That issue is critical because, if there are hard deadlines and producers can join only at a certain stage during the year, that might stifle business, so we would be grateful for an answer to that question.

Fiona Hyslop

I would like to address the issues with return points. Small businesses in particular have concerns about limited space and lack of capital revenue to invest. You have addressed that to an extent, but there are two other issues: one relates to health and safety; the other relates to the distance to another return point. What engagement has there been with different organisations and groups on that? What are their concerns? In addition, when will you know whether convenience retailers are choosing either to establish a return point in their premises or to opt out?

Lorna Slater

The member has asked some really good questions. Circularity Scotland is a membership-based not-for-profit company. Its members include trade associations that are associated with small convenience stores, such as the Association of Convenience Stores, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Scottish Grocers Federation—so they not only have a direct line to the information; they are also influencing Circularity Scotland’s decision making. The mechanism by which Circularity Scotland interacts with convenience stores is through their membership of those trade associations.

I meet those associations—and the Scottish Grocers Federation in particular—regularly and they have flagged up two categories of concern. First, they have emphasised that they want their members to participate in the scheme. They consider it a matter of footfall: where small grocers participate in the scheme, people will come through their doors, which is exactly what they want. They have asked me to help them to be involved in the scheme, and they are very supportive of it.

Secondly, some small businesses, particularly tiny ones, were concerned about their lack of storage space. Bakeries that sell bottled juice were also concerned, as you cannot have broken glass in a bakery. As the member pointed out, there are exemptions for such situations.

Let me give the high-level picture so that everybody understands. If you sell bottles and/or cans of juice, wine or anything else in Scotland, you have three options: you can choose to be a manual return point; you can choose to have an automated return point, which means installing a reverse vending machine; or, if it is applicable to you, you can choose to be exempt.

The grounds for exemption are proximity. For example, if several small stores are close together but a big store is nearby, the small stores might decide that they are not up for being return points and they can ask the big store to take their returns. Equally, they might decide that they want to work together to be a return point so they might pull together and get one reverse vending machine between them.

There are different models and it is up to each business to decide how it wants to proceed. If a business wants to be a return point, it can be a manual return point. That is the most cost-effective model if the business is collecting small amounts. That is probably what a convenience store would do. If a store has a small floor area, it might not have room for a reverse vending machine and it might not have high sale numbers of those products, so it would take them back as returns. In that case, customers would hand their bottles and cans over the counter.

The reverse vending machine infrastructure is probably most appropriate for bigger stores that not only have the space for them but the capital to do the up-front installations and the resource to do the administration of getting planning permission and all the things that go with that.

It is likely that big stores will have the reverse vending machines, small stores will have manual return points and other businesses that apply for an exemption—that is, small businesses or businesses with bakeries in them and so on—will be exempt.

On how we will know, we are the point at which it is with businesses to make their applications. Return point applications are open, so businesses can look at the evidence and decide what to do. Once the period of applications for return points is complete, we will have a picture of how many we have in Scotland and will know the mix—how many are manual and how many are RVMs. Then, knowing how much volume of material there is, we will be able to estimate how many will go to each point.

That will allow Biffa to work out its logistics. If there are more return points, that means fewer items per return point, whereas fewer return points means more items. Working out the logistics depends on exactly how many businesses sign up, where they are and what their volumes are, so it is an iterative process whereby we see what businesses have signed up.

I hope that I have answered the question. I might have drifted off a bit.

When will we know?

When does retail registration close?

Kevin Quinlan (Scottish Government)

It is actually—[Interruption.]—pardon me.

Do not touch a button. The microphone will come on for you.

Kevin Quinlan

Thank you, convener.

Registration is an on-going rolling process.

Lorna Slater

You can register at any time. However, that also means that, if businesses are not sure that they will be ready for 16 August or they have not decided, they can apply for an exemption, if that is applicable to them. For example, if the owner of a small cafe thinks that they cannot deal with the scheme this year and they apply for an exemption, they could reapply later to be a return point. It is not a permanent decision.

Fiona Hyslop

Scotland has vast rural and island areas and it has small convenience stores in villages and small towns. There is also concern about whether such communities will have return points. I understand that registration is an iterative process and that there are logistical considerations, not least for Biffa on collection. People might fear that collections will be few and far between.

What assurances can you give? Is that a matter for Circularity Scotland, or can you, as a minister, make it clear that you want the scheme to work for all parts of Scotland—not just for urban areas but for semi-rural, island and remote communities?

Lorna Slater

The member is absolutely right. The scheme has to work for every person in Scotland because every person in Scotland will pay their 20p and so they need to be able to get it back easily and conveniently. That is how the scheme is intended to work.

At the moment, exemption is an opt-out process. By default, all businesses that sell the containers are obliged to be return points. Therefore, any convenience store in a small town or on an island where you can buy drinks also has to be a return point unless it is exempt.

It is absolutely the intention that that will be the mechanism in small rural and remote areas. The place where someone buys their juice should also be the place where they return the item. The proximity exemptions are much more likely to apply in urban areas where a group of shops are close together. They will not apply in rural areas where there is only one shop, for example.


Circularity Scotland and Biffa are very conscious of “black spots”, which is the industry term. As the registrations for return points come in, they will monitor the situation very closely and engage with any businesses that appear to be in a black spot to ensure that there are adequate return points. I believe that Biffa is also looking at the possibility of mobile return points to collect from very rural areas.

We should probably pursue the issue of practicalities in rural areas with Circularity Scotland.

Absolutely. It will be able to get into the nitty-gritty of that.

A lot of members would like to ask supplementary questions. I will bring in Liam Kerr first.

Liam Kerr

The deputy convener’s questions are really pertinent. According to an ACS graphic that I saw recently, the suggestion seems to be that, if a retail outlet cannot afford a reverse vending machine or it has no space for one, it should put the returns in bins behind the counter. What if it has no space for that? What if it is in a rural area and therefore cannot apply for the exemptions that have been mentioned? Would that approach be right for the health and safety of staff?

Lorna Slater

That is how such schemes normally work. It is the case that return points need to take bottles back and store them until they are collected. I understand that, when a retailer registers to be a return point, it enters information on how many returns it expects to receive and how much storage space it has. That allows Biffa to put in its schedule how often materials need to be collected. That is normal for retailers. They will need to be able to store materials until they can be collected.

It might be normal, but what if a retailer does not have space for bins behind the counter? In any event, from a staff perspective, is that what we should be doing?

Lorna Slater

When items are returned, they need to be stored until they can be collected. Businesses already have storage space for various recycling materials and packaging materials. What is proposed is very similar to that. It is up to each business to figure out how it can store the materials. Unless they are exempt, businesses have an obligation to be a return point if they sell the materials. Biffa and Circularity Scotland are very happy to work with businesses to find out how that will work for them.

There is no particular rule about how businesses must store the returns. They could adapt to store them behind the counter, and I have seen versions that involve having designated wheelie bins in a secure area. There is a variety of ways to adapt storage space, and businesses can make the right decisions for them.

In relation to security, the bins will have value. Is there a risk of crime if open bins are stored behind counters?

Lorna Slater

The member is correct that the items will have value. They will have to be stored securely, because shops need to return the items to get back their fees. The items will be only 20p each, so they will represent only a small proportion of the value within a shop, which might sell bottles of alcohol, tobacco and so on. However, the member is quite right that the items will need to be secured until they can be picked up, because they will have value.

Jackie Dunbar

You said that businesses can apply to be exempt from being a return point. You also said that businesses can change their mind later. If they do not, how long will the exemption last? Will businesses have to reapply every year?

Lorna Slater

As far as I know, the exemption will last until a business wishes it to end. I am not aware of there being a certain timeframe, but I will be very happy to come back to the committee to provide clarity if that is not the case.

Thank you.

Minister, I have a couple of questions about return point operators. On the adjustments that have been made, can you confirm that the exemption process for operators is an opt-out process. Is that correct?

Lorna Slater

[Inaudible.] A return point must be registered in order for it to be a return point; anyone who sells these materials has an obligation to register. That is so they can enter exactly the detail that Mr Kerr was pointing out in terms of how much storage they have and the volume of returns that they expect to receive so that the logistics can be organised. If a business wishes to be exempt, it needs to apply for an exemption. Zero Waste Scotland is managing the exemption process.

Return point operators might be eligible for an exemption, which they can opt out of. If that was to change to an opt-in process, that would require a change in regulations. Is that right?

No. They just need to then apply to be a return point operator. That is fine.

I thought that you said that everybody was under an obligation to be a return point operator and they would have to opt out if they were not eligible for exemptions.

Lorna Slater

Those exemptions were built into the regulations. That is not new; they were already in there. We streamlined the process to make it more straightforward for businesses to apply for exemption. We have brought in Zero Waste Scotland as our partner on that. There is no change to the regulations. We are just implementing them in what we hope is an easier and more practical way.

Mercedes Villalba

Some parts of industry have called for you to make it an opt-in process, so that a business opts in to become a return point operator rather than opting out if it is eligible for exemption. I am just trying to establish that, were that change to be made, that would require a change in the regulations. Is that correct?

Lorna Slater

Yes, it would, but I do not think that we need that. When I speak to the Small Grocers Federation, for example, they ask us to help to facilitate their members to do that. They want their members to be in and they want the footfall—

The rationale for that is to have that footfall.

Lorna Slater

I am not hearing strong calls for the system to be an opt-in system. The obligation remains for anyone who sells these materials to be a return point for them, unless they are exempt and have applied for an exemption.

We have made the exemption process as simple and as streamlined as we can. Now that businesses are starting to use that process—registration for return points is open—I am sure that they will give us feedback and we can continue to make the system simpler and more straightforward, although it is already fairly straightforward for businesses. They can say that they are exempt for health and safety reasons and they are not that comfortable with handling glass on their premises. They can apply for an exemption and that can be done in a straightforward way.

Mercedes Villalba

I presume that the rationale behind that is that, if you are a retailer, you would want to be part of the scheme because shoppers looking to make purchases will, for the sake of ease and simplicity, choose to shop with a retailer where they can also return their empties. It is just easier not to have to go to one place to shop and another place to return. I can see the rationale for that.

Will you explain the rationale for having that same opt-out system of exemptions for the hospitality sector? That seems to be a different case. I am not sure that the ability to return an empty item will influence customers when they are choosing a hospitality venue in the same way that it would when they are choosing a retail business. Can you explain the rationale for extending that opt-out to hospitality rather than making it opt-in?

Lorna Slater

All return points use the same process. Hospitality falls into two categories. I am sorry, but this is about to get horribly technical. There is closed-loop hospitality and open-loop hospitality. If you go to a small cafe, such as the local Greggs, for your sausage roll and bottled juice, you will take that bottle away. That is an open loop. Under the scheme, because customers take bottles away from that business, it is an open loop and it is obliged to be a return point unless it is exempt. A small cafe or Greggs bakery, for example, have probably got very clear grounds for exemption because it cannot have broken glass on the premises. It would probably apply for exemption on health and safety grounds, meaning that it would not operate as a return point.

Equally, it might be that the small bakery is in a parade of shops that has a larger convenience store at the end, so it might decide to ask the convenience store to take its returns. It would then get an exemption on the basis that there is a return point within the same parade of shops. It is for those businesses to make the right choice for themselves.

Closed-loop venues are the other type of hospitality venue. For example, you might be at a restaurant and order a bottle of wine with your dinner. You would not take that bottle away with you when you leave the venue, however much you might wish to. That bottle will not incur a deposit, because you will not take it away. However, the venue will have paid a deposit when buying the bottle from its wholesaler, so it will need to get its deposit back. It will do that through a closed-loop system. For that system, Biffa will collect materials separately. That process does not affect the consumer.

We are starting to get into technical matters, but those are two different ways in which hospitality venues can manage the process.

Am I right in thinking that closed-loop hospitality venues are obliged to be return point operators unless they opt out?

Lorna Slater

No, that is not right. Closed-loop hospitality venues are not return points. A restaurant that serves drinks to customers at their table and does not give them the bottles to take away is not obliged to be a return point, whereas a cafe or small bakery—

But could they opt in if they wanted to?

Lorna Slater

They are not obliged to, but a cafe or a small bakery where customers might get a sandwich and a drink and leave the venue with them is obliged to. However, as I say, those venues are likely to have grounds for an exemption.

So, a bar or a cafe that operates in a closed-loop system is not obliged to be a return point.

That is correct.

Mercedes Villalba

That is clear. Thank you.

I understand that a couple of adjustments have been made to the guidance on return points. There is new guidance on exemptions and there are increased handling fees, and amendments have been proposed on online sales. It would be helpful to hear to what extent those changes have addressed industry concerns. Is the Scottish Government still hearing concerns from businesses? To what extent have the adjustments helped?

Can you repeat your second point?

I referred to increased handling fees.

Lorna Slater


All the work has been done in response to industry requests. One of the interesting things about the project is that the legislation, as passed by the Scottish Parliament, was relatively broad in order to allow the industry to come up with a solution that it wanted; the scheme is industry led.

There are two major parts: the producers who have to pay into the scheme and the retailers who have to implement the scheme, who will be selling bottles to customers and taking them back. You can imagine that there is a push-and-pull factor in that relationship: the producers want to pay as little as possible, and the retailers want to be paid as much as possible for the work that they do. Circularity Scotland is managing that internal negotiation and the tensions within the industry.

Specifically, the exemptions relate to the small businesses that saw the exemptions in the regulations and asked what that means for them. We have, with Zero Waste Scotland, put in place a process that is on the website and is now active. Handling fees and producer fees have also been addressed in the past few months. Circularity Scotland made calculations based on initial estimates of what fees might be, and the industry came back to say, “Please think again”, so it did.

The exemption process meant that Circularity Scotland could change its modelling about how many return points there would be and was able to adjust the figures: the producer fees have gone down and the return point handling fees have gone up. Circularity Scotland is a not-for-profit organisation, so it will not keep any of that money, which will go into reducing the cost of the scheme. The idea is that, as the scheme beds in and becomes more efficient and as we get past the day 1 costs and so on, the fees can be revisited in line with the efficiencies that will be built as the scheme goes forward.

Mercedes Villalba’s last point was about online sales, which are covered in the regulations. However, it was flagged up strongly to me and my colleagues that the online obligation as it was written in the regs was simply not deliverable. Businesses said that they could get on and deliver a more traditional scheme, such as other countries have, based on reverse vending machines and manual return points, but that the online take-back, which no other country implements to the extent that we had put into our regs, was simply not going to be possible within the timescale.

That is one area where I have listened to business and said, “Do you know what? You’re right. I can see that that will not be possible within the timescales.” As a result, we have committed to removing that obligation from the regulations. In other words, when the regulations come for amendment to Parliament, the obligation on online take-back will be removed, then phased in for larger retailers, starting from 2025.


The Convener

Before we move on, I want to ask a quick question, just so that I understand this. Many rural areas have only one small store selling convenience goods; most people will use it on an ad hoc basis then go to bigger towns and settlements at the weekend to get their messages. Because there is no other shop in the village, there can be no proximity exemption, so the shop cannot get away from being part of the deposit return scheme, and it cannot argue for an environmental health exemption, because all it is doing is selling these things. It will therefore be forced to have a deposit return scheme and forced to take containers from the big shops where most people get their shopping at the weekend. As a result, it will probably end up with a storage yard as big as the shop itself. Is that how you see it, or have I completely misunderstood the situation?

Lorna Slater

We have yet to see consumer patterns. Will people do as they do with bags since the 5p charge was brought in and just keep them in the back of the car and take them back with them when they do their shopping at the weekend? One concern that has been raised with me by small retailers is that people will take all their bottles back to the big shop so, as a result, small shops will get less footfall. We have yet to see exactly how that will work out and thereby to understand the volumes that businesses will get. Consumer behaviour is something that we will need to observe and adapt the system for.

However, I point out that the regulations contain a proportionality provision under which small and especially manual return points can refuse to take containers. If someone rocks up with a van full of cans to a small shop that does not have the space to take them, the shop can turn the person away; it is not obliged to take the cans.

The Convener

I think that I understand that, but my point is that people will not take their cans and containers on the bus when they do their shopping at the weekend. It will be much easier to pop them into the local shop before they go. I think that that will be a problem, so I am interested in it.

The issue is common to how schemes around the world work.

So, it is common to replicate problems.

It is common for both local shops and the big shops to take returns, so that consumers can decide where they want to make returns.

The next questions are from Liam Kerr.

Liam Kerr

I would like to follow up both an earlier question from the convener and the one that he has just asked. The convener talked earlier about the cost of a basket—that is, the cost of shopping. We know that the DRS could add up to, let us say, 40p per unit. Given the cost of living crisis and the increase in the cost of the weekly shopping, has the Government investigated or done any research on the impact that the scheme might have on inflation?

The research that we have done has looked at similar schemes around the world. Because the deposit itself is fully refundable, it does not add to inflation; when you pay your 20p, you get your 20p back.

Liam Kerr

I said that it would add up to 40p per unit. You have talked about the scheme being cost neutral, but we know that other costs that are not recoverable could—or perhaps will—be factored in. I therefore want to ask again a very clear question. Has the Government got anything that I can read and which has been published that shows the scheme’s impact on inflation?

Are you asking about what costs business might add?

I am asking about—

The deposit itself—the 20p—is paid and then the customer gets it back again, so it will be cost neutral. What businesses charge for their products is not a matter for the Scottish Government.

Has the Scottish Government done any research on the impact of the DRS scheme in Scotland on inflation? Yes or no.

The member will recall that, before the legislation was passed, a business and regulatory impact assessment was done to assess the economic impact. That work was fully documented at the time.

Liam Kerr

That was in 2019.

I am also quite concerned by your response to the question that the convener has just asked. Let me ask you a direct question. Does the Government have any data on, or has it investigated, the impact of adding up to 40p per container on consumer purchasing behaviours? By that, I mean the types and formats of the products that they buy and the like. Have you or have you not modelled the scheme’s impact on consumer behaviour?

Lorna Slater

I do not recognise the member’s assertion about the cost being 40p. That is not a number that I recognise. Under the scheme, the cost is 20p, and people will get that 20p back.

With regard to consumer behaviour, we do not think that there will be extensive format switching from small units to large units in order to reduce any perceived mark-up in the deposit. As I have noted repeatedly, the deposit is fully refundable. Retailers are required to display information that tells people that the deposit is refundable.

There are many other deciding factors for consumers, including practicality, convenience, brand preference and the presentation of the product. Evidence suggests that, where product or format switching has occurred in other countries that have a DRS, it is rare that it can be attributed only to the DRS. Therefore, we think that there will be only a limited impact in that respect.

Will you publish the evidence that you have collated that has led you to come to that conclusion?

I am happy to share with the member whatever information we have on format switching.

Liam Kerr

I am very grateful.

My final question in this area is about the fact that many small independent businesses have suggested that the scheme will have a disproportionate impact on them. Some have suggested that the viability of their businesses might be at risk when the scheme comes in. Were those concerns factored into the Scottish Government’s initial impact assessments so that it knew about them, or are they new to the Government?

Are you referring to concerns of small retailers or concerns of small producers? One group will be in receipt of fees and the other will pay the fees.

Liam Kerr

I am concerned about both. The point that I am making is that many small businesses—producers and retailers—have suggested that they are at risk from the DRS. Were those risks known about and factored in by the Scottish Government when it was putting the scheme together, or have the concerns come as a surprise to the Government, following publication of details of the scheme?

Lorna Slater

The Scottish scheme, as set out in the regulations that the Scottish Parliament passed back in 2020, is very much in line with schemes around the world. Nothing here is a surprise. What we are doing is exactly along the lines of what has been done in other countries.

I will address the position of producers and retailers separately. On the producer side, the intention is to be fair to all producers, but it is absolutely a proportionate scheme. Producer fees are charged for each individual container. Therefore, the scheme will be inherently proportionate to the size of the business. A small business such as a craft brewery will pay significantly less than a larger producer will pay.

The additional cash flow measures that Circularity Scotland announced two weeks ago—maybe it was three weeks ago—benefit all producers but, proportionally, they benefit small producers more. When we passed the regulations, we passed a scheme that is similar to schemes in other countries. As I discussed in an earlier answer, it will be up to businesses themselves to manage the push and pull between the producers who pay in and the retailers who take the fees.

Liam Kerr

I want to be clear, because I asked you a very direct question. From what you are saying—you looked around the world at what was happening elsewhere—the Scottish Government knew that small retailers would be disproportionately impacted and that some businesses’ viability would be threatened.

That is not what I said at all.

So you did not do that.

What I said we are doing—

Liam Kerr

I know what you are doing, minister. I am asking you a direct question. Did you know that small retailers would be disproportionately impacted and that their businesses would be threatened, or did the Scottish Government not know that?

Lorna Slater

I do not agree with the member’s representation that small businesses will be disproportionately impacted. The measures that we have put in place have been designed to support small producers in particular. I can go through them again. One of the measures that we have put in place to support small producers is proportionate producer fees, so that small producers will pay the same as large producers, proportionally, because the fee is charged per container. There are, similarly, cash flow measures specifically to help small producers.

When it comes to our small retailers, the fees that will be paid for operating manual return points are the highest in the world for small retailers: our small retailers who operate manual return points will be better off than their compatriots around the world. With our scheme, we are doing more for small businesses than other highly successful schemes around the world are doing. Therefore, I do not agree at all with the member’s representation of the scheme.

I think that we have taken that point as far as we can. We move to further questions from our deputy convener.

I want to ask about the March gateway review. Is that taking place currently? Who is conducting it?

Lorna Slater

We have had several gateway reviews of the project. One is under way this week, and we will receive the results from it imminently.

The gateway review teams usually speak with 12 to 15 interviewees, including relevant commercial and external stakeholders such as prime contractors and consultants—the people who are actually doing the work. They will give their assessment and then we will find out exactly how they think we are getting on.

Who does the gateway review?

Kevin Quinlan

The gateway review is conducted by a panel of independent people. The person who currently leads the panel has led on previous reviews. He is supplemented by an expert on information technology systems and another expert who examines finance and governance issues.

Fiona Hyslop

There has previously been criticism that there has been no international input into such reviews. My understanding, which is from Government gateway reviews, is that that would not be normal in any case and that any international research or comparisons would have happened at the very start of development of the legislation and the regulations. Is that correct?

That is correct.

Fiona Hyslop

The March gateway review will be fairly critical to our understanding of how fit for purpose and how ready the scheme will be. Will the findings of the review be published, to enable scrutiny to take place? If so, when will they be published? How will progress be monitored, and how will decisions be taken in the run-up?

I agree that we await with interest the results of the review. We will consider the panel’s recommendations carefully and will share those and our response with the committee in due course.

Can you give us an advance on “in due course”? In what timeframe can we expect to see that happen?

I do not have any further information on the timeframe. I am not sure whether we can commit to a timeframe, but I will ask my officials to confirm.

Kevin Quinlan

That is probably not a matter for me, but I can address the second part of the deputy convener’s question, which was about how progress will be monitored. A range of measures exists. A system-wide assurance group that brings together CSL, SEPA and the Scottish Government meets monthly. We also have an executive oversight group that meets monthly. The minister meets the chief executive officer of CSL monthly and others as needed. Every Monday, I sit down with the CEOs of SEPA and CSL and their teams to monitor progress.

Fiona Hyslop

It would be helpful for the committee’s planning of scrutiny and accountability matters during this parliamentary session if you could agree that, at some point soon, we could have an indication of when we might expect to see publication of the results of the gateway review.

We will do what we can on that.

Finally, will the gateway review identify whether there are sufficient and adequate resources—in particular, for SEPA and Zero Waste Scotland, which are key parts of the scheme?

Lorna Slater

We will have to wait and see what the gateway review comes up with. For example, previous reviews have given us a steer towards streamlining the exemption process. That was a bit of advice that came to us straight out of a gateway review, which we were then able to implement along with our guidance. Such reviews are constructive and detailed in saying where we have challenges, what is going well and what we can work on. That enables us to take points away, which, as I said, we have done following previous reviews. We all look forward to seeing the results of the review, and we hope that the panel will have constructive input for us.

As will the committee.

It would be helpful to have some idea of the timescales for the gateway review. Mark Ruskell has questions on other areas.

Mark Ruskell

It has been useful for us to get clarification on a number of areas this morning, but now I want to look forward. The scheme is ambitious, which is what the Parliament voted for. It would be unthinkable for there not to be some teething issues with the scheme’s operation after the August start. Has any thought been given to what those issues might be? Earlier, the minister mentioned that there will need to be continual analysis to ensure that there will be an adequate number of return points and that CSL will carry out that role. Can we anticipate any issues that might arise—in particular, on the basis of international comparisons—and how CSL might deal with them?


Lorna Slater

Absolutely. The scheme, as it will look on 16 August, will probably look quite different 18 months down the line. When these sorts of schemes launch, there is a first stage—what we call the cut-over period—that is always challenging. In this case, most of what you have in your house, most of the litter in the streets and so on will not at that point be scheme articles. If, after 16 August, you do your citizen’s duty by picking up a can at the side of the road and taking it to a return point, the can will be rejected. It will not be a scheme article because it was sold before the date.

During the cut-over period, some scheme articles will be in circulation; however, quite a lot of material that is not scheme articles will be in circulation, too, and it will take a number of weeks for scheme articles to become predominant. A big part of what we have to manage, therefore, is the ramp-up into the scheme. There are tried and tested ways of doing that, and there are learnings that we can take from other countries. It will be a challenging period, and our communications to consumers must be clear so that customers understand why the bottle that they bought on 17 August can be returned whereas the one that they bought on 15 August cannot.

That is definitely challenging for us to manage, because we all want people’s first experience of the scheme to be a positive one. We want them to have their bottle accepted, to get their 20p back and to spend that on their shopping or whatever they wish. The cut-over period will be absolutely critical.

Moreover, as those materials gradually ramp up, we will be able to see consumer behaviour. It goes back to the convener’s earlier point: does the consumer tend to bring things back to the big shops, or do they use a mix of small and large shops? How does it work? Biffa and Circularity Scotland will have to be very reactive and dynamic, and we will be working with them on processes and mechanisms that will allow them to deal with any small business that says, “Oh my goodness—my bins are full! Biffa, come and get them,” and to be able to update things so that people can say, “Do you know what? I thought that we were going to get 10,000 items a week back, but we’re getting only 3,000. We need to adjust our schedule.”

There will have to be a period of adjustment and optimisation as the scheme settles in, and, as a result, I would expect what you have suggested to be the case. I expect that communities will tell us, “We have no return point that’s convenient for us. How can we get things collected?” We will have to be dynamic in addressing those sorts of issues. It is my intention, therefore, to facilitate some sort of reaction force so that people and businesses know whom to call when their bins are overflowing or they cannot return things and so that there is a process by which people can find out how to get their 20p back.

The scheme will ramp up and adapt to things over the first year. In fact, the recycling targets that we have set will come into effect after a year—or perhaps two years; I will see whether that needs to be corrected—in recognition of the fact that we will not have 90 per cent recycling on day 1. As the scheme beds in, we will work towards that 90 per cent recycling target.

That is a clear driver and target for CSL to be aiming at—is that right?

Lorna Slater

That is right. It is obliged under statute to return that level of recycling. As far as the black spots for collections and such are concerned, CSL needs to put in place a comprehensive network of return points to allow it to hit the target, because, as an organisation, it can be penalised if it does not meet its statutory obligations.

Have you finished with the teething issues, Mark? I see that someone has a supplementary on that issue.

Mark Ruskell

I realise that we are about to move on to a different area, convener, but I just want to make the point that it is important that we have the opportunity to question Circularity Scotland in the weeks ahead, because there is some real nitty-gritty stuff in here that it would be good to get some evidence on.

Did you say that there is a supplementary, convener?

Liam Kerr wants to ask about teething issues, Mark, and then we will come back to you.

Liam Kerr

I am very grateful to you, convener, and to Mark Ruskell for letting me in.

One trade association has warned that around 40 per cent of products could disappear from shelves in Scotland. Does the Scottish Government recognise that as a possibility? Did that happen in other countries that you looked at? If so, is the Scottish Government making any moves, or can it do something to counteract that?

Lorna Slater

We already know that 95 per cent of materials, by volume, are signed up to the scheme. The way to counteract any risk is to bring all producers online so that they can continue to sell in Scotland. All the measures that we are using to support producers to sign up to the scheme, including cash-flow measures, labelling measures and any further measures that we agree with them, are meant to do exactly that—to allow that variety of producers to continue to sell in Scotland.

The labelling measure is of particular interest when it comes to the importation of wines. It was a specific ask from our wine importers, because you can imagine the difficulty if they were importing only 500 bottles of wine from a winery in France. They would not want to have to put a Scottish label on that number of bottles, which is quite reasonable. That is exactly the kind of situation for which the labelling measure was designed. Our estimate is that about 15,000 products will use the sticky label solution.

It is absolutely not the vision that our products will be restricted. We are working to continue to have a wide variety of products on the market.

For absolute clarity: you do not recognise the warning that 40 per cent of products could disappear.

I do not.

Thank you, minister. Back to you, Mark.

Mark Ruskell

I will ask some questions around the UK Internal Market Act 2020 exclusion, and other members may want to come in on that issue as well. There are questions about process and who asked what and when, but I will start by asking the minister about scenario planning. If there is no exclusion under the internal market act, what will be the consequence? Have you planned for that?

Lorna Slater

That is premature. The Scottish Government has been following, and continues to follow, the agreed process for excluding the DRS regulations from the internal market act.

Euan Page is the expert on that issue, so I will give you what I know on it and then he can add some detail.

Whether there is an exclusion is not at the whim of the UK Government. The exclusions from the internal market act are agreed under common frameworks. The frameworks are an agreed process by which the devolved Administrations in the UK protect their powers in respect of devolved matters. The resources and waste framework is there to protect the Scottish Government’s ability to legislate in devolved areas. Under that framework, we have put together the evidence and the case that the matter that we are considering—our deposit return scheme—is fully a devolved matter, which it is. It clearly is a fully devolved matter, and we have presented that evidence through the agreed process to the UK Government. Those are the stages that we have gone through to get an exclusion.

Euan Page will be able to add much more detail.

Euan Page (Scottish Government)

I think that the minister has set it out very well. It is probably important for the committee to keep in mind that the exclusions process that was agreed between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations was expressly designed to avoid a rather binary model in which the Scottish Government would ask and the UK Government would decide, which is how the situation has been characterised in some recent comments.

The common frameworks are agreed intergovernmental structures that predate the 2020 act and were designed to move this into a more collaborative, evidence-based space. One of the many issues with the 2020 act was the threat that it posed to the viability of the operation of Government frameworks. The fact that, late in the day, the UK Government tabled an amendment to allow policy divergence that was agreed through a common framework not to be subject to the market access provisions in the act was very welcome.

We are nearing the end of the common frameworks process, and it has indicated that an exclusion should be granted. That recommendation is now under consideration by ministers in all the UK Administrations.

The other point to make clear is that UK ministers alone are the only actors in the system who have the powers to give effect to an exclusion, as the act confers the necessary powers only on UK ministers. The matter will be under active consideration by the lead minister, the secretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and we expect an answer very soon.

However, it should not be looked at as a situation in which we submit an application and it is either approved or rejected. We expect things to move in a predictable, transparent and evidence-based way. We are confident that the case has been made clearly and collaboratively with the UK Government through the common frameworks process.

Mark Ruskell

Okay. I am getting words of reassurance about how the common frameworks process has been working and continues to work. However, there is still a potential threat that the exclusion will not be granted. What would happen then?

Euan Page

As the minister has pointed out, we are not thinking in that way at the moment. Were that to be the case—without any further reasoning or reference to the evidence that has been gathered through the common frameworks process—it would represent a very significant threat to the agreed common frameworks process, through which we collaborate as equals with the UK Government and the other devolved Administrations. The repercussions would be significant for a key plank of intergovernmental structures that have been put in place since EU exit.

It is one of the frankly rare examples of things progressing quite well. The frameworks have created a space for more collaboration. Therefore, were we to see a situation arise in which UK ministers declined to use their powers to give effect to an exclusion, we would need to understand with urgency how they came to that view in the light of the common frameworks process recommending that an exclusion should be implemented to remove the confusion and uncertainty that the internal market act is causing.

Lorna Slater

I will clarify that point. The recommendation for the exclusion would have been made on the basis of evidence, and rejecting that evidence would be outwith the way in which the frameworks process is intended to work. As Euan suggests, if that were to happen, it would represent a very significant breakdown in the collaborative working between the two Governments—in fact, between all the devolved Governments. If that were that to happen, given what a big deal that would be, the Scottish ministers would set out next steps at that point.

Collette, you are sitting very quietly. Do you want to ask your questions now?

Collette Stevenson

Thank you, convener. Mark Ruskell has touched on this already. Does the minister consider that the resources and waste common framework and the process for agreeing new exclusions from the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 are fit for purpose, based on the lessons learned to date in relation to the DRS and single-use plastics, including how the provisional common framework might need to be amended to reflect much more recent developments that we have heard about today?

Lorna Slater

I will give my view and then hand over to Euan, who is the expert on this.

The resources and waste common framework has worked well. For example, we used it last year to get the exclusion that we needed for the single-use plastics ban. Provided that the framework is used as intended, I think that it works well. The question on the table is whether UK ministers will break that agreement.

Euan Page

I have a couple of observations. As I noted, common frameworks predate the internal market act. There was agreement at the joint ministerial committee (European negotiations) in October 2017 to embark on work to agree these intergovernmental structures to manage by agreement some of the practical regulatory effects of the devolution settlements no longer operating in the context of EU membership, including the UK Government’s legislating in devolved matters for England.

The frameworks process is underpinned by a set of ministerially agreed principles, which include an agreement that common frameworks will be used to ensure the functioning of the UK’s internal market while acknowledging policy divergence. That is a very important point—a recognition that, in any internal market, there is always a balance to be struck between market efficiencies, trade flows and the preservation of the rights and responsibilities to make rules locally that are fit for local circumstances.


The introduction of the internal market act was unfortunate. There was a great deal of concern from the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly, as well as wide agreement among academic and legal commentators in many sectors, that the act posed problems, not least in how it would interact with the intended operation of common frameworks. In effect, the act’s automatic application of market access provisions in most relevant cases removes the incentive to manage the process by agreement. The act is very unusual and is not like internal market regimes elsewhere in that it is rigid in its application and there are no countervailing proportionality principles underlying it. That is partly why there is a propensity for confusion and a lack of clarity, because there is little that you can do to temper and balance the broad requirement to maintain mutual recognition and non-discrimination in all cases.

Common frameworks have started operating in not the most auspicious of circumstances. As I say, a late amendment to the act created a little bit of space for common frameworks to operate as intended, and UK ministers made some welcome commitments on how that provision will be used. That presupposes a degree of automatic flow from an agreement being reached on a common framework to agreeing policy divisions and managing those, then to seeking an exclusion from the internal market act as required and UK ministers subsequently using the powers that only they have to give effect to that exclusion.

It is important not to chuck the baby out with the bath water here. There are lessons to be learned about the operation of common frameworks, which have been made more complex and challenging by how we manage the interaction between common frameworks and the act. In many ways, those approaches are, if not incompatible, very difficult to reconcile. However, we have the opportunity to do that, which is an added reason why it is important that the process runs as intended through to the granting of an exclusion, in order to give greater confidence that the common frameworks programme has the space to operate as intended.

That is a very detailed statement. Rather than go back to the minister, I will see whether Collette Stevenson wants to come in with a supplementary based on what she has just heard.

Collette Stevenson

I thank Mr Page for his detailed response. Minister, do you think that there needs to be a clearer definition of what form a request for a new exclusion under the internal market act should take? How should that look?

Lorna Slater

There is no request—that is not part of the process. As Euan outlined, the common frameworks process has been agreed. It is not a question of making a request that is then accepted or rejected; it is a question of working through the framework in order to present evidence and then working with that evidence. It is unfortunate that Alister Jack has presented it in that way in the media, as it is not accurate. It is not how the process works. For the record, Alister Jack has not attended any of the interministerial group meetings at which we have discussed the matter, nor has he corresponded with me on the matter. He does not know how the frameworks process works, so his comments about it are, unfortunately, not very helpful.

The Convener

Minister, with the greatest respect, we have been trying to keep the discussion apolitical and I do not think that this is the right place to call someone out. We have been trying to understand the mechanics of the operation. I am happy to let you conclude, but I would urge you to take the personalities out of it and avoid criticising people, as the committee has agreed to do.

Lorna Slater

I understand, convener. As Euan has said, the resources and waste common framework has the right structure, and it is not helpful to frame the process as involving a request that needs to be accepted or declined. That is not how the process works. The decision-making process is evidence based.

Liam Kerr has a supplementary question, and I will ask a quick question at the end.

Liam Kerr

It is a brief question on the practicalities. Mercedes Villalba asked what I thought was a salient question on hospitality. As I understand it, Biffa is the only logistics operator in the scheme, so hospitality venues will be required to work with Biffa. Can you tell the committee why the contract was not put out to tender? In any event—and perhaps more crucially—what will happen to existing contracts that venues have with other waste management companies when Biffa takes over?

Lorna Slater

On the contract with Biffa, Circularity Scotland is a private, not-for-profit organisation and, as such, its procurement procedures are entirely its business and are not for the Government to be involved in. It is not a public company, so public procurement procedures do not apply to it.

On existing hospitality logistics, I know that CSL and Biffa are keen to use existing infrastructure where possible and that they are encouraging providers that wish to be involved in the scheme to contact them to discuss that.

The overall goal of the scheme is to produce more and better-quality recyclate. That means collecting the scheme articles separately—they need to be separate because, as the member has noted, they have separate values. That does not mean that the scheme encompasses all the recycling materials that hospitality venues deal with. There will be other containers, such as other glass and plastic containers, that are not scheme articles, and those materials will still require to be collected.

Once the scheme articles are taken out of the system, that will open up the bandwidth and capacity for local authorities and private providers to collect other materials. For example, I think that we can all see that more work could be done on the collection of materials such as soft plastics and pots, tubs and trays. The scheme should therefore broaden our ability to recycle across the spectrum as well as increasing recycling specifically in relation to scheme article materials.

The Convener

We are running short of time, on our agenda and yours, minister. However, I have a quick question. I am interested in your comment about small producers from outwith Scotland that sell some, but not many, goods in Scotland. You gave the example of wine coming in and said that, if one of the big multiples wants to get products from a small producer, Circularity Scotland will give it labels to stick on. I do not understand the process of sticking on the labels. Will that be done by the retailer just before the product goes out the door, or will it be at the point when the products are imported into Scotland? How will that work? Surely, it will add cost and reduce choice.

Lorna Slater

The labels will be provided free of charge by Circularity Scotland to businesses to which that circumstance applies. That means that people who are importing or producing small quantities will not have to come up with bespoke labelling. The labels will bridge the gap.

On the organisational detail about the point at which the labels are put on, given that materials often pass through multiple wholesalers and retailers, I would have to come back to the member on that. Alternatively, when the committee has David Harris here in, I think, two weeks’ time, it would be good to ask him about that sort of operational detail.

The Convener

I am sure that we will ask that question, because I am sure that some of the big multiples will not want to get down to sticking on labels in normal convenience stores for small quantities of products.

The session has been interesting, minister. Thank you very much for your time. I am sure that the committee will have further questions for the Circularity Scotland representatives, who are coming on, I think, 28 March to answer our questions.

I will just continue with our agenda, as we have one further item in public. I am sure that you will be able to slip away quietly, minister, as we move on to that.