Scotland’s deposit-return system: how it will work

An Iceland store in Musselburgh, East Lothian, installed a reverse vending machine as part of a trial, ahead of the forthcoming formal introduction  of a deposit-return system in Scotland
An Iceland store in Musselburgh, East Lothian, installed a reverse vending machine as part of a trial, ahead of the forthcoming formal introduction of a deposit-return system in Scotland
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Scotland’s new deposit-return system (DRS) for recycling drinks containers is soon to be rolled out.

It’s expected to be up and running before the end of March 2021.

The deposit will be 20p.''Consumers get their deposit back when they return the empty bottle or can. 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 and will only be required to return the containers they sell on their own premises

The deposit will be 20p.''Consumers get their deposit back when they return the empty bottle or can. 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 and will only be required to return the containers they sell on their own premises

Research suggests the new scheme will see an extra 140,000 cans and bottles go to recycling instead of trash each day across the country.

Similar systems are already successfully operating in many countries overseas.

The Scottish system will take back cans, glass bottles and plastic containers made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and sized from 50ml up to three litres. Plastic milk bottles, tetra paks and pouches are not currently included, though these may be added at a later date.

Shoppers will pay an extra 20p on the cost price of drinks sold in these packages, which will be refunded when they are brought back for recycling.

Scotland deposit return scheme infographic'The deposit will be 20p.''Consumers get their deposit back when they return the empty bottle or can. 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 and will only be required to return the containers they sell on their own premises.

Scotland deposit return scheme infographic'The deposit will be 20p.''Consumers get their deposit back when they return the empty bottle or can. 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 and will only be required to return the containers they sell on their own premises.

People will be able to take their empties back to retailers who sell the products to get their money back, either as a voucher that can be used to offset other purchases or as hard cash.

Large retailers will have reverse vending machines, providing an automatic return system for public use.

Smaller retailers will collect over the counter.

Both will be reimbursed by the system operator for their time, space and other costs. Where a group of shops are close to each other they may be able to pick just one to take returns.

There will also be an option to donate deposits to charity, which is a common practice in other countries - up to 40 per cent of people do this.

Plans include developing a new mobile app that will users to manage their refunds.

Currently, local taxpayers cover the costs of dealing with empty drinks containers, through council recycling, litter collection and bin emptying services. Under the new system these costs will be shifted onto drinks producers.

Further funding will come from the sale of high-quality recyclable materials and from any unredeemed deposits – where empties are not returned.

Mixed kerbside recycling will continue to be provided by local authorities, but single-material waste is more valuable and should support new businesses in the circular economy sector.

Scottish ministers are continuing discussions with Westminster, which is also due to establish a DRS across the rest of the UK. It’s hoped there will be a uniform system across the nation in order to maximise convenience for both businesses and the public.

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