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Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme launches 16 August 2023

The UK’s first Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) will go live across Scotland on 16 August 2023, helping to recycle billions of bottles and cans every year. We’ve pulled together what that might mean for your business and where to get further information.

Update 15 December: read an update on the delivery of the scheme from the Circular Economy Minister. It indicates that some changes may be made to the scheme. We'll update our pages when these are confirmed.


In this article you will find:

  1. What you need to know
  2. Whom does it apply to?
  3. What do businesses need to do? | Key points
  4. Getting ready for Scotland’s DRS | Useful links
  5. Who is involved?
  6. Timeline

1. What you need to know

Deposit return schemes are established in many countries. They help to tackle climate change and reduce litter.

In Scotland the scheme is designed to tackle our throwaway culture and help protect our environment for generations to come.

People will pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink that comes in a single-use container made of PET plastic, steel and aluminium, or glass. They will get their money back when they return the empty container to one of tens of thousands of return points.

The scheme aims to:

  • Improve recycling rates
  • Increase the quality of recycling materials
  • Reduce litter

2. Whom does it apply to?

  • The scheme applies to hospitality businesses that serve drinks for customers to consume off the premises in:

    • Single-use glass
    • Metal
    • PET plastic containers
  • You must also operate a return point for consumers to return any container included in Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.

  • Many takeaways and cafes, and some bars and restaurants, will have to advertise the deposit as a distinct and separate cost to the sale price.

  • If you sell drinks only to be opened and consumed on-site in your pub, bar, or restaurant, you will not have to charge the deposit to the public.

  • When buying stock, for example from a wholesaler, you will pay the 20p deposit on those items in the same way as shops.

  • If applicable, your business has a legal responsibility to comply under The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020. Under some circumstances, businesses will be able to apply for an exemption.

3. What do businesses need to do? | Key points

Does the scheme apply to your business? The following are some key points to help you understand it:

Good to know

  • What's included in the scheme?

    All drinks sold in single-use containers made from PET plastic, glass, steel, or aluminium, sized between 50ml and 3 litres are included in the DRS.

  • How does it work?

    Businesses should charge the 20p deposit when selling a drink that is in a scheme container. You should make it clear to the customer that the drink is be part of the scheme and a deposit applies.

  • Communication to the customer

    Many takeaways, cafes, bars and restaurants will have to advertise the deposit as a distinct and separate cost to the sale price.

  • What is a closed loop system?

    If your customers only consume the drinks you sell on site, and you collect all the containers, you can operate what’s known as a closed loop system.

  • What is a return point?

    All businesses that sell drinks to take away are legally required to operate a return point. Return points are where consumers can return their empty scheme containers and get their deposit back.

  • How do return points work?

    A return point can be operated manually with scheme containers handed over the counter and the deposit refunded from the till. Or a retailer can install a reverse vending machine on their premises.

4. Getting ready for Scotland’s DRS | Useful links

Good to know

With the Scheme going live in August 2023, you should familiarise yourself with what it might mean for your business. There are several useful resources with detailed information to help you understand.

  1. 1

    Zero Waste Scotland


  2. 2



  3. 3

    ​​​​​​​Circularity Scotland


  4. 4

    Scottish Government


5. Who is involved?

  • Zero Waste Scotland

    Zero Waste Scotland advised on the creation of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. It has supported industry, Scottish Government and key partners on implementation. It continues to provide a wealth of support for the industry.

  • SEPA

    SEPA is the regulator for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. It’s responsible for the producer registration service. It will work with producers, retailers, and the scheme administrator to help them understand what they need to do to follow the scheme.

  • Circularity Scotland Ltd

    A scheme administrator handles the day-to-day management of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. Circularity Scotland Ltd is currently (November 2022) the only approved scheme administrator. Its members include:

    • Scotland’s largest drinks producers
    • Importers
    • Wholesalers
    • Retailers
    • Key trade organisations

6. Timeline

The key dates are as follows:

  • 1 January 2023: from this date producers can register with SEPA.

  • 16 August 2023: the scheme goes live. All drinks produced in scheme containers for sale to a consumer in Scotland must bear a deposit. Retailers who sell drinks must operate return points (unless exempt).

Orkney is currently undertaking a trial period. Orkney’s trial scheme will not need consumers to pay a deposit on drinks containers. It is hoped it will provide insight into how the initiative can be rolled out to rural and island communities.

“Return and Recycle Orkney” runs from 4 November until August next year. It is delivered by Zero Waste Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government.

Related links