Welsh brewers criticise ‘arrogance’ of deposit return scheme
The chair of the Brewers of Wales has told db that the Welsh Government has shown arrogance and ignorance in its pursuit of a glass-included deposit return scheme.
Speaking to the drinks business following the news that Wales will pursue a DRS with glass, despite the UK Government restricting a similar scheme in Scotland, Simon Buckley, chair of the Brewers of Wales and founder of Evan Evans Brewery, said the move sets out “to impose change on us for no sake other than change”.
He said: “We stand up for the small family brewers of Wales, many of who have suffered badly at the hands of the Welsh Government during Covid, and the impact that has had on the rural economy.
Buckley said he had been involved for well over a year with the Welsh Government on the scheme, meeting with deputy head of the food division, David Morris, and packaging policy manager, Howard Davies, and it was “clear its our way or no way”.
He said: “There was to be no negotiation on glass. If the big brewers could do it then the little guys could as well.
“We are not the road sweepers of Wales, we are keen to be part of the new green Wales agenda, and unless the brewers go with it there is no scheme. 91% of all glass in hospitality is recycled every week. 83% of the beer sold across bars in Wales is brewed outside our borders, so by the very nature of scale brewers are small, and are typically family-run, employing people in rural towns.”
When asked about concern that breweries could find themselves confronted with people demanding a refund for bottles, he said glass theft outside pubs could become an issue, and they may need to introduce new security as a result.
He said: “We bottle for other brewers and send the stock to supermarkets for them, so who pays and when?”
Buckley also believed that it was a long way from a scheme that was “easy to work” and “everyone understands”.
“We are a long way off that,” he continued, “there will need to be safeguards, there will need to be low cost entry, and to work, England, Scotland and NI need to be involved, but that’s not going to happen.”
But he did also believe the DRS with glass could work.
“Yes, anything can be made to work, but it has to be easy to use, people have to buy into it, and we the brewers have to be supported to implement any scheme.”
The news comes a similar plan was blocked in Scotland by the UK Government.
The UK government published a policy statement on the Scottish DRS on Saturday 27 May after considering Holyrood’s request for an exclusion from the UK Internal Market Act 2020, which would allow Scotland to undertake an entirely separate DRS.
Scotland was granted a temporary exclusion, as its scheme was due to precede the roll-out in the rest of the UK, but was told it would have to exclude glass from 2025 to be in line with UK-wide plans.
First Minister Humza Yousaf hit back at the block from Westminster, suggesting a Scottish scheme may fail to go ahead unless the UK Government revoked its decision on the glass exemption.