On 7 June 2023, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity announced that Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) will be delayed until at least October 2025. This is to align with schemes in the rest of the UK. As a result, it is likely elements of Scotland's scheme will need to be redesigned to be fully interoperable with the UK. You can read the full statement about the announcement on the Scottish Government website: www.gov.scot/news/deposit-return/
To reflect these changes, we have temporarily removed some of the DRS guidance and information from our website. If you can’t find the information you need about the scheme, please contact us.
SEPA will be in contact with all producers who registered for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme, either through the scheme administrator or directly with SEPA, to notify them of the process which will cancel their registration for the Deposit Return Scheme. Those producers who paid a registration fee will be contacted separately regarding the process for refunding their registration fee. Registered producers will receive further information by email from SEPA. Please send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 deposit, which you get back when you return your empty bottle or can.
The scheme is a form of extended producer responsibility, which means producers and importers of drinks covered by the scheme will have new legal responsibilities for the management and collection of their empty drink containers for recycling.
The deposit return model incentivises behaviour change, encouraging a move away from a throwaway culture and improving the quality and quantity of recycled material collected. Returning and recycling empty single-use drink containers that could otherwise end up as litter or be disposed of to landfill means materials are retained within the value chain for longer. This reduces our demand on raw materials, waste to landfill, and emissions that contribute to climate change. It is a significant step towards developing a more circular economy.
What drinks will be included in the scheme?
The scheme applies to all types of drinks that are contained in single-use packaging that is:
- made from PET plastic, glass, steel or aluminium;
- between 100ml and 3 litre of liquid in volume;
- sealed in an airtight and watertight state at the point of sale;
- first made available to be sold by the producer on or after the scheme go-live date;
- made available to be sold by the producer for the purposes of its retail in Scotland;
- is not a low volume drink product.
These are called scheme articles, but you may also see them being referred to as scheme containers.
Further information about scheme articles is available in our Guide to scheme articles, non-scheme articles and non-Scottish articles.
How much will the deposit be?
The deposit is 20p per drink (scheme article). The 20p deposit is charged on each drink bought and redeemed on each empty scheme container returned. For multipacks, the deposit is charged per drink in a pack rather than per pack. For example, for a multipack containing six drinks the deposit would be £1.20.
When does the scheme go live?
On 7 June 2023, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity announced that the launch of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme will be delayed until at least October 2025. The full statement is available to view on the Scottish Government website: www.gov.scot/news/deposit-return/
What does it mean for me?
We all have a responsibility to work together to make sure the scheme is a success for businesses, consumers and the environment.
The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020 set out the legal requirements of the scheme. SEPA is the scheme regulator, and drink producers, importers, wholesalers and retailers all have obligations they must comply with.
Role of SEPA
SEPA is the regulator for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. We are responsible for the producer registration service and checking compliance. We will work with producers, retailers, wholesalers and the scheme administrator to help them understand their obligations and what they need to do to comply with the scheme.
Once the scheme is live, we will publish a list of all registered producers and carry out audits, inspections and enforcement activity. You can find out more about our regulatory approach and what this means for DRS obligated businesses in SEPA's approach to regulation.
While the scheme undergoes review to become fully interoperable with the rest of the UK, we will continue to work closely with Scottish Government and our delivery partners on scheme implementation and statutory requirements.
Role of producers and importers
The industry-led scheme gives drinks producers a leading role in the management and collection of their empty drink containers for recycling. Once the scheme goes live, producers that want to sell their products to consumers in Scotland will need to be registered with SEPA (either directly or through a scheme administrator), charge and refund deposits on the drinks they sell, arrange for the collection of their empty containers and meet collection targets.
For the purposes of the Regulations, a producer is a drinks brand owner, an importer of drinks into the UK market, or someone who fills and seals scheme containers with a drink at the point of sale to a consumer, for example, a crowler.
Role of retailers and hospitality businesses
Once the scheme goes live, retailers and hospitality businesses will be responsible for making sure the drinks they sell are from registered producers and for charging customers the deposit (where applicable) when they are sold. They will also need to display information to help customers understand which drinks are part of the scheme and how much the deposit is. Unless exempt, retailers will also have to operate a return point, collecting empty containers for recycling and returning the deposit to consumers.
For the purposes of the Regulations, a retailer is someone who sells drinks to consumers in Scotland. This includes face-to-face retail, online retail, sales in a hospitality setting, sales from vending machines, and wholesalers that sell direct to consumers.
Role of wholesalers
Wholesalers have similar obligations to retailers. Once the scheme goes live, they will be responsible for making sure the drinks they sell to customers for retail sale in Scotland are from registered producers and that they charge the deposit when the drinks are sold. It will be important that they know which stock is part of the scheme and which is not and make this clear to customers.
Wholesalers do not need to operate a return point unless they are selling drinks that are part of the scheme directly to consumers.
For the purposes of the Regulations, a wholesaler is someone who sells drinks that they have not produced or imported themselves and are not selling to consumers, but instead sell to retailers or other business that will sell to consumers. This includes any third-party reseller regardless of whether they operate from a warehouse or not.
Role of a scheme administrator
A scheme administrator is responsible for the day-to-day management of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. They are approved by Scottish Ministers and are legally able to act on behalf of producers to fulfil their legal obligations as detailed in the Regulations. This includes being responsible for submitting applications to SEPA on behalf of the producers they represent and complying with the Regulations on their behalf.
You can also find more information on Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme following the links below:
- Zero Waste Scotland website
- Scottish Government website
- The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020
- The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Amendment Regulations 2022
- The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Amendment Regulations 2023
If you need any further help or information about the regulation of Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme, please use our online form to contact us.