Scotland is the first country in the UK to announce its plans for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers.

Scotland’s new Deposit Return Scheme will include aluminium and steel cans as well as drinks containers made of glass and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic with a 20p deposit as part of plans to combat climate change.

The ambitious scheme is based on successful international equivalents and will be widely accessible, with all shops which sell drinks offering deposit refunds to customers.

Consumers will pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink in a single-use container. The consumers get their deposit back when they return the empty bottle or can. 

The scheme will operate across Scotland from cities to rural areas. Online retailers are also included in the scheme.

All types of drinks and all containers above 50ml and up to three litres in size are included.

Businesses that sell drinks to be opened and consumed on-site, such as pubs and restaurants, will not have to charge the deposit to the public.

There will be two ways you can return your empty container – over the counter, or by using a reverse vending machine (RVM). 

An RVM is a machine that scans containers when they are returned and then refunds your deposit. 

There will be a range of ways you can get your 20p back, for example cash at a till, a token or discount voucher or digitally. The returned containers are stored in the machine and are then collected for recycling.

As well as retailers and hospitality businesses, schools and other community hubs will be able to act as return locations.

Community organisations will also have the opportunity to get involved as collection points. The scheme has been designed to be as accessible as possible to people.

It’s intended that the scheme be run by an independent, privately-run, not-for-profit company. It will be paid for through three sources of funding: unredeemed deposits, revenue from the sale of materials and a producer fee. 

The Scottish Government intends to introduce legislation later this year. Once the regulations are passed by the Scottish Parliament, there will then be an implementation period of at least 12 months before the scheme is up and running. 

An Implementation Advisory Group, comprising industry representatives, has been set up to provide industry input and guidance on delivering an effective scheme, as well as testing assumptions and decisions about how it is delivered.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Scotland was the first part of the UK to commit to a deposit return scheme as part of our wider efforts to prevent discarded drinks containers from ending up in our streets and seas, and is now the first to outline its design – one that is ambitious in scale and scope, and which gives the people of Scotland a clear and straightforward way to do their bit for the environment.

“There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations. I am therefore delighted to confirm that I intend to implement a system covering PET – the most common form of plastic packaging – aluminum and steel cans, and glass, with a deposit refund set at 20p.

“Supported by international evidence our plans for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme are gathering pace with widespread consensus demonstrating that a well-run, appropriately-targeted scheme could improve the environment, change attitudes to recycling and litter, and support a more circular economy.”

For more information about the scheme, please visit the online hub for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.