Scotland’s deposit return scheme will go live for consumers in one year’s time (16 August 2023), giving businesses and consumers an easy way to boost recycling.

The scheme, which will be the first in the UK, will play an important part in Scotland’s journey to a circular economy. Estimates by Zero Waste Scotland suggest that the scheme will reduce emissions by an average of nearly 160,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – the equivalent of 109,000 return flights from Edinburgh to New York.

The 20p deposit will also provide an incentive to reduce littering, helping to cut the number of bottles and cans discarded in streets and green spaces.

The scheme is being delivered by Circularity Scotland Ltd., an industry-led body representing drinks producers, retailers and trade bodies of all sizes. This business-led approach is common among many of the most successful schemes in Europe, include Denmark, Finland, and The Netherlands.

Infrastructure for the scheme is now beginning to be rolled out across Scotland, and businesses of all sizes are being encouraged to act now to make sure they are ready for the scheme launching this time next year.  

Businesses who make, import or sell drinks in Scotland may have legal responsibilities under the scheme. For drinks producers and importers this includes registering to be part of the scheme – they won’t be able to sell their products in Scotland unless they have registered. For retailers, wholesalers and hospitality businesses, this means making sure any drinks they sell in Scotland are from a registered producer and charging the deposit on each drink. They may also have to operate a return point or offer a takeback service, collecting empty containers for recycling and return deposits to consumers

Businesses can register with Circularity Scotland, to make sure they receive information that will help them prepare.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), who are the regulator for the scheme, has also launched a campaign that will help businesses understand their legal responsibilities and the steps they need to take to prepare. SEPA is responsible for the producer registration service, which opens in January 2023. Producers will need to either register directly with SEPA or through the scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland. SEPA will also carry out audits, inspections, and enforcement activity, ensuring the scheme is a success.

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said:

“Scotland is leading the way in the UK on delivering a circular economy. By putting in place a deposit return scheme, we are delivering on the public’s desire to see action on plastic and other waste, and making an important contribution to the response to the climate emergency.

“With thousands of return points across the country, it will be as easy to return your empty bottle or can as it was to buy it in the first place. This will help to nearly double recycling rates for the containers included in the scheme, while reducing the amount of litter on our streets and cutting CO2 emissions.

“This scheme is being delivered by industry for industry. By putting businesses in charge, we are making sure that it works for them. With one year to go until the scheme goes live for consumers, I would encourage all businesses and organisations that produce, ship or sell drinks to get involved with the scheme now.”