Biffa Sues Scottish Ministers for £200m Over Failed Bottle Deposit Scheme

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Biffa Waste Services Ltd has launched a legal case to reclaim approximately £200 million from Scottish ministers, citing significant losses from investing in the government’s aborted bottle recycling scheme.

The company’s legal team has filed a case at the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, seeking to recover a £150 million loss incurred due to the collapse of the SNP and Greens’ flagship deposit return scheme, along with subsequent lost profits. Biffa will be represented by Roddy Dunlop KC, dean of the faculty of advocates.

Biffa contends that the Scottish government misrepresented the viability of the scheme, providing personal assurances from Green Party co-leader Lorna Slater, which led to Biffa investing £55 million in vehicles and equipment in preparation for the scheme. Slater, who was the minister for green skills, circular economy, and biodiversity from 2021 until this year, later scrapped the scheme in June last year.

The scheme’s cancellation followed the UK government’s refusal to grant full exclusion from the Internal Market Act, which prevented Scotland from including glass in its operations. Biffa reportedly invested over £65 million in preparation for the scheme.

A source revealed to the Sunday Mail newspaper that Biffa agreed to the contract based on “written assurances from Lorna Slater about the scheme’s deliverability and the Scottish government’s commitment to it.” The source added that Biffa believes the Scottish government “negligently misrepresented the assurance it gave” and failed to mention the need for UK Internal Market Act approval.

A spokesman for Biffa stated: “Biffa was selected by Circularity Scotland Limited as the logistics partner for the delivery of the Scottish deposit return scheme and invested significant sums to support its timely and successful implementation. This was done in good faith and on the expectation and understanding that the delivery of the scheme had been mandated by the Scottish government.

“Having carefully reviewed our position with our advisers, we can confirm that we are taking legal action to seek appropriate compensation for the losses Biffa has incurred.”

A Scottish government spokesman responded: “The Scottish government cannot comment on ongoing litigation.”

The deposit return scheme aimed to boost recycling by imposing a 20p deposit on every drinks container, refundable upon return of the container. Biffa was appointed to collect all recycled containers across Scotland under a ten-year contract, anticipating profits exceeding £100 million.