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St Andrews Wine Co: New Eco Scheme will “kill the drinks industry in Scotland"

The Scottish government is implementing a deposit return scheme (DRS) in order to mitigate waste due to single-use containers. These regulations mean that customers will be required to pay a 20p deposit when purchasing disposable drinks, which will be repaid once the empty container is returned for recycling purposes. Peter Wood, of St Andrews Wine Company, told The Saint that the scheme will push up the price of wine and also reduce the range of wines that can be sold.

According to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) website, which is the regulator for the DRS, it will help to decrease waste, encourage recycling, and ultimately combat climate change. As currently planned, the Scottish DRS will be the largest of its kind in Europe and include tens of thousands of return points for single use containers.

The DRS affects every level of the beverage market, including producers, importers, and retailers local to St Andrews. It also accounts for all types of drinks – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – that are packaged in PET plastic, glass, steel, or aluminum containers between 50ml and three liters. These products may be referred to as “scheme containers”. Even more, the DRS applies to other UK businesses who supply the Scottish market, even if they are not Scottish themselves.

Peter Wood of the St Andrews Wine Company, who has been selling wine in town since 2001, shared his viewpoint on the effect these laws will have on his business.

“The DRS will simply reduce the range of wines we have and put prices up. This isn’t as simple as putting 20p on a bottle, there is an overly complex system being imposed on business by the Scottish Government, with fees having to be paid, and a mass of work to comply. This will result in a £10 bottle of wine, more than likely costing nearer £12 in Scotland,” Wood said.

Since January of 2023, producers have been able to begin to register with SEPA – a mandatory step of the DRS process. All applications must be received before a final cut off date of March 2023. However, it will not be until mid August that the DRS will go live. Some of those who will be affected by the regulations claim that this timeline is too hasty.

“The DRS needs to be, at least, delayed so that the Scottish Government can engage with the wine trade (which it hasn’t done, despite their claims to the contrary) and work out a way to make DRS work that won’t kill the drinks industry in Scotland. Small businesses like mine are bearing the biggest hit and we were never consulted about this, unlike the big corporations and supermarkets who were consulted and stand to gain the most from this,” Wood continued.

Wood is not the only one who is concerned. As thousands of businesses begin to register for the DRS this month, many have become more vocal about their position on the scheme. The Gin Cooperative, for one, published a lengthy article in late November, 2022, about how these regulations will affect businesses directly.

“For many of Scotland’s drinks producers, their relationships with their local, and primarily small family based retailers, are vital to their success. Not every drink brand is available in the supermarket. For example, many small Scottish Gin producers routes to market are via their online shop or working with local retailers. These vital routes to markets will become more complicated and, in turn, costly for everyone at the launch of the DRS,” the article stated.

It is clear that producers and consumers alike will be impacted as the DRS begins to gain traction and implement new regulations. Whether those effects will be overall positive or negative remains to be seen.

Photo: St Andrews Wine Company

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