Deposit return scheme consultation: analysis of responses

Analysis of reponses to the deposit return scheme for Scotland consultation.

17 Equality impact assessment (Q53 and Q54)

17.1 As part of the process of designing a DRS for Scotland, the Scottish Government had considered whether any aspects of the scheme could discriminate against or disadvantage certain groups (especially those with protected characteristics under the Equalities Act 2010), and what actions could be taken to mitigate those impacts. A partial Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) was made available together with the consultation document and respondents were invited to give their views in order that these could be incorporated into a final EQIA. Two questions were included in the consultation paper:

Question 53: Have we correctly assessed potential impacts? [Yes / No / Don’t know]

Question 54: Do you think the proposed mitigation is comprehensive? [Yes / No / Don’t know]

Equalities impacts (Q53)

17.2 Question 53 asked whether the potential impacts of a DRS in Scotland had been correctly assessed. This was a closed question with space for comments.

17.3 There was a relatively low response to this question, with only around half of respondents (both organisations and individuals) replying to the initial closed question. Of those who replied, around three-fifths of organisations and individuals said that they ‘didn’t know’ if the equalities impacts had been correctly assessed. Individual respondents, in particular, frequently stated that they could not find the EQIA or did not have the knowledge or expertise to comment. 

17.4 A relatively small number of respondents (less than 150) offered further comments at Question 53. In general, those who answered ‘yes’ to Question 53 had little further substantive comment to make; for the most part, this group simply reiterated their view that the potential impacts had been correctly assessed ‘as far as they could tell’. Just one organisation expressed approval that the partial EQIA had not merely addressed the impacts on people with protected characteristics, but that it had also considered wider socio-economic implications – taking into account the needs of people in low-income households, and those living in remote rural areas and island communities.

Concerns or specific suggestions for the EQIA

17.5 The main point made by those (mainly organisations) expressing concerns or offering suggestions in relation to the EQIA was that a DRS would disproportionately affect older people, disabled people (including those with mobility issues), those with learning disabilities, those on low incomes, people living in rural areas, people living in flats, and people without access to private transport. The effects on these groups were seen to be related to accessing return points and managing cashflow if they could not redeem their deposits quickly and easily. Respondents who raised these concerns believed that the EQIA had either not adequately assessed the impacts on these groups or had underestimated them.

17.6 Similar concerns prompted some respondents to suggest that the design of the DRS (i) should recognise the engagement of these groups with the current kerbside scheme, and (ii) should not unduly burden those who are ‘already doing the right thing’ in terms of recycling.

Comments about other impacts of a DRS

17.7 Many of the comments made at Question 53 did not in fact relate to equalities impacts, but rather to impacts on businesses. Organisational respondents, including public sector organisations, expressed concerns that the potential impacts on businesses (and workplaces) had not been adequately recognised. Specifically:

  • Public sector organisations thought that, given the large volume of drinks sold on NHS premises, the lack of attention to the impact of the scheme on the public estate (and NHS sites in particular) was ‘a significant omission’.
  • Some identified potential health and safety impacts from operating a ‘take-back’ return system for staff working in the retail sector. Concerns related to handling broken glass; storage of return containers and the potential for this to attract vermin; and abuse of shop staff by members of the public if, for example, they cannot accept large quantities of returns because of lack of storage space.
  • A range of businesses called for greater consideration of the impacts on: (i) all supply chain links, (ii) costs for small producers, (iii) consumer choice or spending habits, and (iv) other consumer behaviour (e.g. more car journeys to larger retail outlets to reclaim deposits, rather than using smaller local outlets reached by foot).
  • There were concerns voiced about the potential impacts on farming and the dairy industry.
  • Some organisations thought that there had been no recognition of the impact of a DRS on other policies. Those mentioned were minimum unit pricing for alcohol, EPR reform, DEFRA’s forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy, the UK Treasury consultation on taxing single use plastics, and the (draft) EU Single Use Plastics Directive.

17.8 There were calls for a more detailed business regulatory impact assessment (BRIA) and further economic modelling of the DRS options being considered.

17.9 Finally, a range of respondents called for regular review of the equalities impacts of the scheme to be undertaken.

Proposed mitigation (Q54)

17.10 Question 54 asked for views about whether the proposed mitigation of the identified equalities impacts was comprehensive. Like Question 53, this was a closed question with space for comments.

17.11 Again, there was a low response to this question, with only around half of organisations and individuals replying. Among those who replied, more than half of respondents overall said they did not know if the proposed mitigation was comprehensive. Organisations as a group were more likely than individuals to answer ‘don’t know’ to this question. However, charities and organisations in the hospitality and restaurant trade were most likely to answer ‘no’.

17.12 Respondents who thought the proposed mitigation in the EQIA was comprehensive did not provide any further substantive comments. All comments provided in response to this question came from respondents who believed the proposed mitigation was not comprehensive or was otherwise unsatisfactory in some respect.

17.13 The main views expressed by this group in relation to the EQIA were that:

  • It correctly identifies potential impacts but does not give details about how the design of a DRS in Scotland would address those issues. A more comprehensive EQIA should be produced once a final decision has been made about the specifics of the system.
  • The mitigation does not consider the impact of the DRS on people with protected characteristics in comparison to taking no action and maintaining the status quo.
  • The proposed mitigation is not comprehensive because it does not take account of the impact on NHS sites.

17.14 Again, respondents made comments at Question 54 that were not directly related to the question. These focused on the need for monitoring systems to be put into place to measure the impact of the DRS in relation to a range of outcomes (e.g. an annual litter survey was suggested). Those (mainly charities) who highlighted this issue thought there was an opportunity to develop evidence that may be used internationally as well as being used to measure the effectiveness of the Scottish system.


Email: Tim Chant

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