Trade associations representing independent retailers have taken up opposing views on proposals for a deposit refund scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles in Scotland.

The newsagents federation (NFRN) has come out in favour of the proposals, but both the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) and Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) are against claiming it would be impractical because of the burden it would place on their members.

The NFRN’s Scottish Conference voted in favour of a proactive engagement in a bid to increase recycling levels within Scotland.

Gail Winfield, the newly elected president of the NFRN in Scotland, said: “NFRN members are responsible retailers who want to play a role in protecting the environment and who recognise the damage that plastic bottles and cans can do to their surroundings. It’s for that reason we have agreed to support the Scottish government’s aim of increasing the rate of recycling but we want to ensure that any schemes to achieve this are developed in co-operation with the independent retail sector.”

She continued: “While DRS is only one option available – and we do have concerns about the practicalities of operating such a scheme and around the potential impact of kerbside recycling – we consider it an important enough issue to create a working party comprising like-minded groups to ensure that any deposit refund scheme that is implemented in the future allows independent retailers to fully play their part.”

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter added: “With Westminster’s Environment Audit Committee now looking at the damage done to the environment by plastic bottles and by coffee cups, this is ceasing to be just a Scottish issue. The decision of the federation’s National Executive Committee (NEC), supported by the Scottish Conference, to take a proactive position on these important issues shows how seriously independent retailers take their responsibilities to the local communities they serve.”

However, the ACS and SGF have written to the Scottish government, highlighting the following concerns about DRS:

• Retailers do not have the space to store and manage high volumes of returned beverage containers.

• An increase in staffing levels would be required to manage returns and prevent increased queuing times at the till.

• It is not financially viable for convenience store retailers to install a reverse vending solution.

• Convenience retailers will be disproportionately disadvantaged as they do not access to back hauling services, their stores are smaller and they have less capital to invest in the set-up of the scheme.

SGF chief executive Pete Cheema said: “Deposit return is the wrong solution for Scotland and the wrong solution for our industry. Local authorities are making good progress in achieving the national recycling target and it makes no sense to throw this into reverse and place the burden on retailers.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “A deposit return scheme would bring massive time and cost burdens on local convenience store retailers. We believe that this system is unnecessary, and that regulators should focus their attention on maximising the effectiveness of local authorities’ existing kerbside recycling schemes.”