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Circularity Scotland: Bottle return scheme firm ‘on brink of collapse’

Image source, Getty Images

The firm which was due to manage a controversial Scottish recycling scheme appears to be on the brink of collapse.

Staff have been sent home from Circularity Scotland and the board is unable to confirm if they will be paid for the month or if they will be able to return to the office.

The company was in charge of the deposit return scheme (DRS) which has been delayed until 2025.

Its board said it recognised it was an “extremely difficult time” for staff.

It said bosses were “working tirelessly” to find a solution.

The Scottish government’s flagship recycling scheme was supposed to launch in March next year.

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said she had been left with no choice after the UK government excluded glass from the Scottish scheme.

Circularity Scotland released a statement on Thursday afternoon.

It said: “The board of Circularity Scotland have been working to manage the impact of the Scottish government’s announcement and find a way for the business to continue to operate.

“While this work is ongoing, we instructed staff to go home on Thursday 8 June.

“The unfortunate reality is that, at this point, we are not able to confirm whether our staff will be paid for this month or whether they will be able to return to the office.”

Image source, Getty Images

The statement added: “The board recognises that this is an extremely difficult time for our people and is working tirelessly to find a solution.

“We have remained in communication with our staff throughout and will provide updates to them at the earliest possible time.”

The DRS was designed to improve recycling rates for certain bottles and cans by providing a financial incentive to recycle and pick up litter.

A 20p deposit would be added to cost of items sold in Scotland and then the customer would get that money back when they took the empty container to a return point, either over-the-counter at a shop or using an automated reverse vending machine.

Circularity Scotland Ltd was set up in 2021 as a not-for-profit company to administer the scheme, funded by drinks producers.

It was supported by more than 95% of the market to raise the investment and create the infrastructure needed for the industry’s producers, retailers and wholesalers to meet their regulatory obligations, and to support trade associations.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said she had been left with no choice but to delay the scheme further

It was approved as administrator of the scheme by the Scottish government in 2021, with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) giving its operating plan the go-ahead the following year.

But the scheme hit the buffers earlier this year when the UK government raised concerns it was incompatible with its own scheme’s plans, meaning Scotland would need an exemption from the Internal Market Act.

The UK government eventually approved a partial exemption, but said glass bottles would need to be excluded.

It said this was to bring Scotland into line with similar schemes that are due to launch in England and Northern Ireland in October 2025, which will also not include glass.

Scottish Conservatives MSP Maurice Golden said: “The SNP and Greens who have botched this scheme from the outset must have known this could happen.

“Now their inexcusable failure means good people face losing their jobs through no fault of their own.”

He added that Lorna Slater should “face up and take some responsibility”.

The Scottish government has been approached for comment.


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