Organised crime gangs ‘could exploit deposit return scheme’

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Organised crime gangs could exploit a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, Coca-Cola’s head of public affairs has said.

Jim Fox warned the risk would increase if different schemes were in place between Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.

The Scottish Government is examining the responses to a public consultation on introducing a deposit return scheme to boost recycling by up to 2.5 billion containers and to cut litter.

It involves customers paying a deposit on top of the price of a product and getting their money back when a container is recycled at a designated point of return.

Speaking at a fringe event at the SNP conference in Glasgow, Mr Fox, Cola-Cola’s head of public affairs in Europe, said his employers back deposit return but warned a Scotland-only scheme would “increase the amount of fraud that is possible” and create more packaging rather than less.

He said: “If you have different products north and south of the border then its easy to understand why a lot of people would make a lot of money shipping product backwards and forwards… all of that money goes to organised crime, it doesn’t go to the environment.”

Shop owner Mo Razzaq, head of the Federation of Independent Retailers, which also supports deposit return, warned of border issues without a UK-wide scheme.

He said: “Germany put their deposit quite high and what happened was they started making empty bottles in Poland with barcodes on them and bringing them over.

“There was a bit of an industry that started with that and that’s what the risks are here as well.

“We’ve got a borderless border, virtually, and anything could come over. It’s got to be quite strict.”

Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon, said the Scottish Government is aware of the problem.

She said Scotland has led the way in the UK, held a summit with other UK administrations on the issue and is waiting to find out what their proposals are.

She said: “The politics doesn’t really come into it in this because if we can have a system that works across the UK than that’s something we would obviously hope to implement.”

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