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18 April

New Scotland First Minister pushes back on DRS, alcohol advertising

Scotland’s new First Minister, Humza Yousaf, has announced a delay to the country’s controversial drinks recycling scheme and sent plans for new alcohol advertising rules “back to the drawing board”. 

In a speech to the Scottish Parliament outlining his policy priorities, Yousaf said the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) recycling initiative would be pushed back until at least next March. 

He also announced a consultation on plans to curb alcohol advertising. 

The moves were broadly welcomed by industry, although the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) criticised the delay in the implementation of the DRS scheme. 

The DRS was set to be introduced on 16 August and was to require all drinks producers and retailers that sell single-use containers in Scotland to sign up for the scheme. A refundable £0.20 ($0.25) deposit was to apply to PET plastic, steel, aluminium or glass containers from 50ml to three litres in size. 

Under the plans, consumers were able to return drinks containers to a number of shops and hospitality sites across Scotland. The scheme’s implementation authority, Circularity Scotland, claimed the DRS should stop 90% of recyclable products going to waste. 

The initiative had proved controversial, with fears among small businesses that they lacked the resources to comply with the scheme. Before Yousaf’s announcement, drinks industry bodies had called on the Scottish government to enact a “grace period” of 18 months following the planned implementation date in August. 

However, BSDA general director Gavin Partington criticised the delay, arguing its members had spent “significant resources” on being ready for the scheme. 

“We are disappointed by the Scottish Government’s decision to delay further. Our members have committed to the introduction of deposit return schemes and have spent several years and millions of pounds on its planned launch in Scotland.”

9 May

Britvic, Heineken UK factories given government grant to clean up energy usage

“Energy-intensive” UK manufacturers including Britvic and Heineken are being incentivised to become more efficient and reduce fossil fuel use via a £24.3m ($30.6m) government fund. 

The UK government said the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF) “will safeguard British jobs and help grow the economy”. 

Soft-drinks manufacturer Britvic has pledged to invest £8m to cut carbon emissions and save energy at its site in Beckton, London, including £4.4m in IETF funding. It will use the money to install a heat-recovery system and low-temperature hot-water network at the site, which produces brands including 7UP, Pepsi Max, Robinsons and Tango. 

Heineken, meanwhile, has received £3.7m to update its Manchester brewery, which produces brands including Foster’s. It will put the funds towards technology that recovers waste heat from refrigeration systems used to cool beer. 

Britvic will begin installing its heat-recovery system at the end of this year. The company estimates the system will cut the London factory’s emissions by 1,200 tonnes per year. It works by switching the site’s heating source from natural gas boilers to “carbon-free heat extractors”. 

The company explained: “This heat recovery system will take waste heat recovered from our existing systems, increase the temperature and redistribute it around the site using a new low temperature hot water network, replacing our carbon intensive steam system. This will decarbonise 50% of the site’s heat demand by shifting its heat source away from fossil fuels.” 

Britvic said it will cover the remaining £3.6m investment beyond the government grant. 

The group is aiming to reduce its direct emissions by 50% by 2025 and to be net zero by 2050. It said it has reduced its direct carbon emissions by 34% since 2017. 

Heineken, meanwhile, wants to be “carbon neutral” at its production sites by 2030 and throughout its value chain by 2040. By 2030, it plans to cut value-chain emissions by 30% from a 2018 baseline.

3 May

NZ scientists create Sauvignon Blanc variants to tackle climate impact

Scientists in New Zealand have developed 6,000 new genetic strains of Sauvignon Blanc in a bid to reduce the impact of climate change on the country’s flagship grape variety. 

The Bragato Research Institute (BRI) in Marlborough has created the plantlets in conjunction with Plant & Food Research as part of a seven-year programme to help New Zealand’s NZ$2bn ($1.25bn) wine industry become more resilient. 

The nascent vines are in a nursery but will be planted in a research vineyard later this year. 

Eventually, the programme hopes to produce 12,000 diverse variants of Sauvignon Blanc, with useful traits like improved yield, resistance to disease, frost tolerance and water use efficiency being prioritised in the cultivation process. 

“New Zealand has 26,559 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc vines and due to the way grapes are propagated, the vast majority of these vines are genetically the same,” a statement from the Bragato Research Institute said. “That means that any new pest, disease or environmental change that affects one vine could affect them all.”

Principal scientist Dr Darrell Lizamore insisted the new variants would maintain the desirable characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc. 

“Plants have the natural ability to become more genetically diverse in response to environmental stress and this knowledge was used to produce a population of vines with unique traits,” he said. “Since this doesn’t involve crossings with other vines, the plants are still Sauvignon Blanc and the new variants are fully formed at the first generation.” 

To understand how each of the 6,000 variants is different, BRI has installed what it claims is the first “high-throughput third-generation sequencer” in New Zealand. 

The sequencer generates long-read data that researchers say enables them to distinguish genetic differences among grapevines, as well as measure the impact a vine’s environment has on its traits. 

The Sauvignon Blanc Grapevine Improvement Programme is partly funded by programme partners, who have committed to investing NZ$18.7m over the duration of the project. 

Trade body New Zealand Winegrowers has said it will provide up to NZ$6m in levy funds, while the remainder comes from the New Zealand government, private wine industry members and other in-kind contributors.