Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme

If you make, import, buy or sell drinks in Scotland you may have legal responsibilities (obligations) under The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020.

What is Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme?

Scotland is introducing a deposit return scheme (DRS). This means when you buy a drink in a single-use container you will pay a 20p deposit, which you get back when you return your empty bottle or can. The scheme is designed to encourage the return of empty single-use containers for collection for recycling. It will help to tackle climate change, increase quantity and quality of materials collected for recycling, and decrease litter.

The Regulations

The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020 set out the legal requirements of the scheme. They apply to drink producers, drink importers and anyone marketing or offering for sale drinks in Scotland packaged in a single-use container made from PET plastic, glass, steel or aluminium sized between 50ml and 3 litres. In the Regulations these are called scheme articles. You may also see them being referred to as scheme containers.

The role of producers and retailers

If you produce or import drinks for the Scottish market that are sold in scheme containers, you must register to be part of the scheme. If you sell drinks in scheme containers on the Scottish market, you will have to make sure they are from a registered producer and charge the deposit on each drink. You may also have to operate a return point or offer a takeback service.

Our role

SEPA is the regulator for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. We 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. We 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.

What does it mean for me?

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

Are you a producer?

A producer is a drinks brand owner or an importer of drinks into the UK market. In the Regulations, a scheme article is a drink that is packaged in a single-use container made from PET plastic, glass, steel or aluminium, sized between 50ml and 3 litres.

You are considered a drink producer if:

  • you are the brand owner of a scheme article that is branded in the UK;
  • you import scheme articles that are branded by a brand owner outside the UK;
  • you fill and seal scheme containers with a drink at the point of sale to a consumer, for example, a crowler.

To find out what you need to do to comply with the Regulations, please visit our Producer page

Are you a retailer?

A retailer is someone who sells drinks to consumers. If the consumer is in Scotland, any retail sale to them is covered by the deposit return scheme, even if the location of that sale is outside of Scotland e.g. online.

You are considered a retailer if:

  • you market, offer for sale or sell a scheme article to a consumer in Scotland. This includes any person who sells online, face-to-face or in a hospitality setting;
  • you operate an online marketplace that facilitates delivery of drinks in scheme containers to consumers;
  • you own a vending machine or operate/control the premises where a vending machine stands.

​​To find out what you need to do to comply with the Regulations please visit our Retailer page

Are you a wholesaler?

A wholesaler is someone whose customers are not expected to consume the drinks they buy themselves but sell them on.

You are considered a wholesaler if:

  • you market, offer for sale or sell a scheme article that you have not produced or imported yourself and are not selling to a consumer. This includes any third-party reseller and not just those who operate from warehouses.

​To find out what you need to do to comply with the Regulations please visit our Wholesaler page 

Wholesalers may also be producers and retailers and would be expected to comply with all obligations identified for those groups. You can check if you fit either of the other categories in the Producer and Retailer sections above.

Not sure where your business fits?

If you aren’t sure what category you or your business would fall under, the following questions should help.

  1. Are you the brand owner of a drink product branded in the UK?
  2. Do you import drink products that are branded by a brand owner outside the UK?
  3. Do you fill and seal single-use drink containers at the point of sale to a consumer, for example, a crowler?

If you answered yes, to question 1, 2 or 3, you are a producer. Find out what this means for you on our Producer page

  1. Do you sell drinks in single-use containers in a shop or face-to-face retail setting to consumers in Scotland?
  2. Do you sell drinks in single-use containers through online retail to consumers in Scotland?
  3. Do you sell drinks in single-use containers in a hospitality setting, for example, in a bar, restaurant or café, to consumers in Scotland?
  4. Do you operate or own a vending machine that sells drinks in single-use containers to consumers in Scotland?
  5. Do you operate an online marketplace where consumers in Scotland can order drinks in single-use containers for delivery?

If you answered yes, to question 4, 5 ,6, 7 or 8, you are a retailer. Find out what this means for you on our Retailer page

  1. Do you sell drinks in single-use containers to customers that buy them in order to sell on and not to drink themselves?

If you answered yes, to question 9, you are a wholesaler. Find out what this means for you on our Wholesaler page

Please note, your business may fit into more than one category. You will be expected to meet the obligations of all the categories that apply to you.

What is a scheme administrator?

A scheme administrator is responsible for the day-to-day management of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. Once approved by Scottish Ministers, they are legally able to act on behalf of one or more producers to fulfil their legal obligations as detailed in The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020.

A producer can either choose to nominate the scheme administrator to fulfil their obligations for a small fee or make their own arrangements to meet them, including registering directly with SEPA.

Circularity Scotland Ltd are currently the only approved scheme administrator. They are an industry-led, privately owned and not-for-profit enterprise. You can find out more about Circularity Scotland and their role as the scheme administrator on their website.

How can I check who is registered?

We will publish and maintain a register of all producers who are registered to market and sell scheme articles on the Scottish market.

Retailers and wholesalers will be able to check the register to ensure the producers they are purchasing drinks from are registered to sell drinks on the Scottish market.

The register will be available to check after producer registration closes in March 2023.

Further information

We will update the information about DRS on our website on a regular basis. You can also find more information on Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme following the links below:

Contact us

If you need any further help or information about the regulation of Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme, please contact us.