What is the deposit return scheme?

The Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is a can and bottle recycling scheme where consumers pay a 20p deposit on a beverage in a single use container, which can be reclaimed by consumers upon return of the empty container. The scheme aims to incentivise positive behavioural change and encourage people to return bottles and cans for recycling by placing value on a single use container.

Deposit Return Scheme Overview

The Deposit Return Scheme introduces new requirements and recycling responsibilities for businesses operating across the UK including retailers, producers, and hospitality. We’re here to help you understand, prepare, and successfully participate in the Deposit Return Scheme when goes live.

Where is it being implemented?

Scotland is the first nation in the UK to commit to implementing a Deposit Return Scheme. Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme to boost can and bottle recycling will be implemented and available to consumers from July 2022. The law (The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020) was passed in May 2020. Circularity Scotland have been appointed as the scheme administrators (Deposit Return Scheme | Circularity Scotland Ltd).

The Regulations lay out in detail the responsibilities on key industries such as drinks producers and retailers (https://depositreturnscheme.zerowastescotland.org.uk/regulations) and set out a path to implementation of the scheme, allowing organisations to step up preparations.

The rest of the UK is hoping to launch a DRS scheme in 2024.

Why introduce a Deposit Return Scheme?

A deposit return scheme incentivises behaviour change, presents a symbolic challenge to a throwaway culture and is a significant further step on our journey to developing a more circular economy. Benefits will also include more and better recycling, litter prevention, and tackling climate change.

The design of our national deposit return scheme is a blueprint for a world-class recycling system that makes it easy for everyone to recycle bottles and cans. 

How does the Deposit Return Scheme work?

The design principle is that it should be as easy for consumers return an empty container as it is to buy the product in the first place.

  • The consumer pays a redeemable sum of 20p on top of (and separate to), the product price when they buy a single-use scheme container of soft or alcoholic beverage.
  • The consumer gets the deposit back when they return the container. Consumers can return empty containers and reclaim their deposit either over the counter, by using a reverse vending machine (RVM), or via an online retailer.
  • All retailers will be obliged to assist in the return of empty scheme containers to the scheme administrator unless specifically exempted.

The scheme will be run day-to-day by a not-for-profit Scheme Administrator (Circularity Scotland) appointed by the Scottish Government. SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) will regulate the whole scheme and will enforce the legal requirements.

Producers will fund the scheme and taking a lead role to implement it. It is also expected that retailers will be represented to support governance of the Scheme Administrator.

Money and Cashflow explained

A section giving a broad overview of how the scheme is funded and what financial impact the DRS will have on outlets; expected expenses and returns (handling fees.) Appropriate sections should link to the financial FAQs page.

The Scheme Administrator

Circularity Scotland have been appointed as the Scheme Administrator and represents producers to manage the Deposit Return Scheme obligations on their collective behalf. The Scheme Administrator was approved by the Scottish Ministers.

The responsibilities of the Scheme Administrator are:

  • Meet key performance criteria, including escalating collection for recycling targets.
  • Day-to-day management of the scheme, and all key decisions that go with that including deciding fees, cash flows, collection arrangements etc.
  • Key point of contact for all parts of the supply chain – producers, retailers etc.
  • Collect deposits and producer fees from producers.
  • Pay deposit and handling fees to retailers.
  • Manage the sale of used materials.
  • Support SEPA in all requests to help support compliance.

What the Deposit Return Scheme means for you

The DRS for Brands

The producer is the drinks brand owner or importer into the UK market (or, in the case of online sales, the operator of the website through which the product is sold.) An importer is where a scheme article is sold (a) for the first time in the United Kingdom, (b) to a consumer in Scotland, and (c) by way of a retail sale. Branded and own-label products are both included. Producers may formally register from 1st January 2022.

For drinks to be sold in Scotland, the producer/brand must:

  • Register with SEPA by 1st March each year. SEPA will hold a list of registered producers.
  • Provide information about their products to SEPA as required (likely to include SKU/barcode details, weights measures, material details, volume forecasts etc.) and abide by the obligations that SEPA set.
  • Include the deposit value on the sale price of scheme containers.
  • Collect scheme containers from retailers and other return points for recycling.
  • Ensure minimum collection rate targets are achieved each year. In year one of the scheme this is 70%*, year two - 80% and year three - 90%**
  • Reimburse retailers for the deposit value of scheme containers collected and pay an additional “reasonable” handling fee per container if one is charged. Producers can appoint an SA to discharge some of the duties on their behalf – in essence to “run” the DRS on a day-to-day basis and all that goes with it. That is what is expected to happen.

The DRS for Retailers and Hospitality

The retailer is the person who sells scheme containers to consumers. For the Deposit Return Scheme, retailers means anywhere that sells the scheme containers, including “out-of-home” venues such as pubs, hotels, ice cream vans, a vending machine, or an online sale. The way in which the retailer sells the scheme containers will determine their obligations under the scheme.

To meet their obligations to the Deposit Return Scheme the retailer must:

  • Ensure they are not selling scheme containers that are not registered with SEPA.
  • Make it clear to consumers at the point of purchase when they buy a scheme container in Scotland that it is part of the scheme, and it will have a deposit applied.
  • Charge the deposit and include it in the final sale price.
  • Display clear the deposit value separate to the product price itself.
  • Display information about how to redeem the deposit.
  • Act as a return point – accepting containers back and refunding deposits to consumers. 
  • Store containers for collection by producers (or the SA acting on their behalf).
  • Provide a complaints procedure – the mechanism and contact details for making complaints
    and contact details for SEPA.

The DRS for Consumers

The consumer is the ultimate purchaser of the scheme container. The consumer is expected (but not legally required) to return the container.

To participate in the Deposit Return Scheme the consumer must:

  • Return the scheme container and get their 20p deposit back.
  • Ensure the scheme container returned is identifiable as a whole scheme container, empty, and not soiled.

Where can I find more information?

Visit depositreturnscheme.zerowastescotland.org.uk for more information. 

Deposit Return Scheme | Circularity Scotland Ltd

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Are you ready for DRS?

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Getting ready for DRS