Deposit return scheme

What is the Deposit Return Scheme?

Deposit return schemes are used across the world as a way of encouraging more people to recycle drinks containers, such as bottles and cans. It works by charging people a small deposit for the bottle or can that a drink comes in. This deposit can then be reclaimed when the bottle or can is returned to a collection point to be recycled.

The scheme is going live in Scotland in August 2023 and it will be a key part of our future recycling system.

Why is it being introduced?

Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme will improve recycling rates and reduce litter in Scotland, as well as helping to tackle climate change. It will do this by incentivising a positive behaviour change and making it easy to do the right thing.

Deposit return schemes operate in many countries where they help tackle climate change and reduce litter. Scotland is joining them, with a scheme designed to meet our unique needs, tackle our throwaway culture and help protect our environment for generations to come.

By 2025, the scheme will capture 90% of all cans and bottles included in the scheme for recycling, prevent 34,000 plastic bottles from being dropped each day and help reduce the amount of litter polluting our environment by up to a third.

How will it work?

Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme places the responsibility on drinks producers for the collection and recycling of the containers their products come in.

Retailers will charge a 20p deposit on bottles and cans and will take back empty drinks containers, either over the counter or via a reverse vending machine.

This 20p deposit will automatically be added to the purchase price of the item.

All drinks (both soft and alcoholic) that come in PET plastic, metal and glass containers sized from 50ml to three litres will fall under the scheme.

Who will it impact?

The Scheme will impact all consumers and also business as well.

Drink producers, importers, wholesalers and retailers all have obligations under The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020. You may have obligations under more than one category. The information below will help you identify who you are and what you need do to comply with the Regulations.




How will this work for bars / pubs / restaurants / hotel / cafes?

Businesses that sell drinks exclusively to be opened and consumed on-site, including many pubs, bars and restaurants, will not have to charge the deposit to the public and will only be required to return the containers they sell on their own premises.

As a result, while pubs, bars and restaurants are included in the scheme, their interaction with their customers will remain largely unchanged.

When buying stock, for example from a wholesaler, these businesses will pay the 20p deposit on those items in the same way that shops will. These deposits will be refunded after the containers are picked up, free of charge, for recycling.

When will the scheme go live?

The Deposit Return Scheme will go live on 16 August 2023.

Further information to help you prepare for the introduction of the scheme can be found on the Zero Waste Scotland website.

Where can I find additional information about the scheme?

More information about the scheme, including FAQs and how the changes may affect you or your business can be found at the following links:

More about SEPA’s role

SEPA is the regulator for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. They are responsible for the producer registration service and will work with producers, retailers and the scheme administrator to help them understand their obligations and what they need to do to comply with the scheme. They will publish a list of all registered producers and carry out audits, inspections and enforcement activity, ensuring the scheme is a success and compliance is non-negotiable.