The organisation charged with implementing Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) has indefinitely extended the deadline for producers to sign up to the initiative.

Circularity Scotland said the 1 March deadline for producers to join would no longer be enforced, but did not say when the scheme would now shut.

“SEPA, the scheme’s regulator has confirmed registration will remain open to enable all producers to sign up in time for the launch of the Deposit Return Scheme on 16 August 2023,” Circularity Scotland said in a release.

Circularity Scotland also revealed 650 producers have signed up to the scheme, out of around 4,500 that sell in Scotland. In its defence, the organisation said these producers represented more than 95% of the total volume of products sold in Scotland each year.

Chief executive David Harris insisted Circularity Scotland had not underestimated the scale of the challenge facing it ahead of August’s “go-live“ date.

“This is a fantastic start and a real landmark for the Deposit Return Scheme, which is set to deliver ground-breaking environmental benefits to Scotland,“ he said.

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“We’ve never underestimated the challenge of delivering a scheme which requires the support of so many Scottish businesses. They will all be helping us to reach the goal of recycling billions of PET plastic, glass and metal drinks containers a year.  We’re now well on the way to achieving that vital ambition.

The news follows days of uncertainty around the future of the proposed scheme, which has been roundly criticised by industry, politicians and producers.

Earlier this week, UK government sources indicated Westminster could block the implementation of the scheme over concerns it could exacerbate cost-of-living pressures for consumers.

The Scottish government insisted the formal process to exclude DRS regulations from the Internal Market Act was “well underway”, despite The Times reporting Holyrood had yet to approach Westminster to ask for the exemption.

All three of the candidates in the running to succeed Scotland’s outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have backed either pausing or scrapping DRS.

The UK government, meanwhile, has expressed a preference for a nationwide scheme. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to implement their own versions of DRS in 2025.

The scheme will apply to PET plastic, steel and aluminium drinks containers, but glass will be excluded (except for in Wales).

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