The Scottish Government has been urged to look more closely at the impact that a Deposit Return Scheme could have on sectors in the Scottish food chain that are heavily reliant on plastic packaging, such as milk.

Responding to the Scottish Government’s call for evidence on a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in Scotland, the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) has acknowledged the potential merits of a DRS in Scotland.

As milk purchases have moved away from doorstep delivery to supermarkets and shops, the milk supply chain has become reliant on plastic containers for delivering fresh milk from the shop shelf to the fridge.

However, since local authorities already provide an effective recycling mechanism for these containers, NFUS is concerned that the proposed changes will simply add costs to an essential supply chain that already operates on small margins.

As such, NFUS is calling for fresh, liquid milk packaging to be excluded from the proposed scheme and is urging the Scottish Government to follow Germany, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, California, Maine and Hawaii which have implemented deposit return schemes with an exemption made for milk.

NFU Scotland milk policy manager George Jamieson said: “The fresh milk chain is one that sees the process of milking, cooling, farm collection, processing, pasteurisation, packaging and delivering to shop shelves often completed within 24 to 36 hours.

“That is a high-value chain delivering a fresh, nutritious product but one that traditionally operates on small margins.

Introduction of a deposit return scheme on milk packaging will bring additional costs to an industry already under strain and farmers fear – based on past experience – that any such additional costs will simply be passed all the way back to the farmgate and a lower milk price.

“Our thoughts are that exempting milk containers from deposit return but continuing to encourage and promote recycling through kerbside collection – a system that is currently working well – will still deliver on our recycling ambitions but without huge additional cost on the dairy sector.”