Scotland to implement Deposit Return Scheme

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Encouraging recycling: DRS scheme to be rolled out in Scotland next summer (Getty/ matteodestefano)
Encouraging recycling: DRS scheme to be rolled out in Scotland next summer (Getty/ matteodestefano)

Related tags Scotland Legislation

Scotland will implement a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) from August 2023, in order to reduce waste and tackle climate change.

A DRS encourages consumers to recycle drinks containers, such as bottles and cans. The Scheme in Scotland aims to ensure at least 90% of drinks containers are captured and prevented from becoming waste.

This is part of the country’s mission to tackle climate change and create a circular economy (whereby a product is continually recovered and endlessly recycled).

From 16 August 2023, all drinks producers and any business selling single-use drinks containers in Scotland will be required to take part in the DRS. It is not optional, and all business sizes are affected.

Businesses will need to charge a refundable deposit of 20p on all drinks containers sold In Scotland, to be refunded to consumers upon return.

Implications for hospitality

This will apply to all single-use PET plastic, aluminium, steel or glass drinks containers ranging in size from 50ml up to 3l containers.

For businesses selling drinks containers or on-site consumption only, like hospitality sites, the DRS operates slightly differently.

Hospitality businesses can choose whether to pass the deposit on to consumers – if deposits are passed onto consumers, then businesses will need to operate as an open return point.

However, many are looking to not pass the deposit on and operate as a closed loop hospitality site where drinks containers are consumed on site and stored for collection by Biffa.

There are expected to be around 30,000 return points in Scotland of which consumers can return their drinks containers back to get their 20p deposit return.


Return points will consist of any shop and hospitality venue in Scotland which operates as a return point operator.

Circularity Scotland – the scheme administrator – secured an £18m investment in May of 2022 from the Scottish National Investment Bank and Bank of Scotland to set up the DRS, before announcing leading waste management company Biffa, as the official logistics provider in July. The company invested £80m in the project.

Any businesses importing and selling containers on the Scottish market must also take part in the Scheme.

There are certain exemptions, including the proximity exemption – which holds if you are within 400m of another return point, as well as the environmental health exemption, where your premises are not suitable. There is also the voluntary return point exemption.

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