Frequently asked questions

To help answer your questions, we have created a list of frequently asked questions about The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020.

Questions are grouped under the following topics to make it easier for you to find what you need.

We updated our FAQs with new questions and information on 18 May 2022.

Deposits and costs

How much is the deposit?

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.

Is VAT charged on the deposit?

The Scottish Government is engaging with HM Treasury and HMRC to reach a final position on this matter.

Does a deposit need to be charged on all drinks I sell?

The 20p deposit applies to drinks (scheme articles) that are part of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. This includes all drinks that are sold on the Scottish market from 16 August 2023 in single-use containers made from PET plastic, glass, steel or aluminium, sized between 50ml and 3 litres.

You do not have to charge the 20p deposit if you are selling drinks to consumers in a hospitality setting where the drink is consumed on-site, for example, in a pub or restaurant. This is because the container is not expected to leave the premises and you will be able to collect all your empty drinks containers.

The deposit is not applied to drinks you sell in export (duty free) shops or to consumers outside Scotland.

Can I issue store points/vouchers instead of repaying the deposit in cash?

There must always be an option for the deposit to be available as a cash redemption. A return point operator must pay out a sum equal to the deposit (20p) for each empty scheme container accepted at the return point. The return point operator can offer the consumer options for how the deposit is returned, for example, by way of charitable donation, store points or in-store vouchers, or wireless transfer. You cannot only offer the consumer store points or vouchers.

Can I increase the value of the deposit that is refunded to encourage consumers into my store?

No. The deposit paid on each drink is 20p and so 20p must always be returned to the consumer. This is set out in the Regulations (Regulation 20 (2)(b)). Any other incentives a retailer or return point operator may wish to use must remain separate to the redeemed deposit.

I am a cashless retailer, do I need to offer a cash deposit at my return point?

Yes. By offering a cash deposit back to consumers, this ensures that Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme is accessible to everyone.  

If the retail or hospitality premises operates entirely cashless, SEPA would not expect the retailer to provide a physical cash deposit so long as wireless or electronic transfer is available. It is not acceptable to only offer the deposit as points or vouchers solely for redemption within a specific retailer's premises or on specific items.

What happens to unredeemed deposits?

Any deposits that are not redeemed by the consumer will be held by the Scheme Administrator and used to help fund the operation of the scheme. The Scheme Administrator can advise on the retention period for unredeemed deposits.

I am buying a gift online for someone in Scotland but I don’t live in Scotland, do I need to pay a deposit?

Drinks sold to a consumer with a delivery address in Scotland are scheme articles and retailers must ensure that they are complying with the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020.

One of the aims of the scheme is to increase high quality recycling of drink containers in Scotland. Charging a deposit for items delivered to a Scottish address ensures that drinks purchased through online retail and delivered to consumers in Scotland can be returned through the scheme.

 

 

What other costs are there for producers?

In addition to the registration fee, producers registering directly with SEPA, will have costs associated with setting up and running a collection scheme to fulfil their obligation to collect the scheme packaging they have put on the market. They will also pay a reasonable handling fee for each item of packaging collected from return points, retailers operating takeback or hospitality retailers.

Producers registering with the scheme administrator will pay the registration fee and a producer fee. The producer fee is charged on each drink container (scheme article) you place on the market and will cover the costs of collecting and managing your containers for recycling. The level of the producer fee will be determined by the scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland. Further information is available on their website: Producers | Circularity Scotland Ltd

What does the reasonable handling fee cover?

The reasonable handling fee is a fee charged to the producer by a return point operator, takeback service or hospitality retailer for the scheme packaging they have collected on behalf of the producer. It makes the scheme cost neutral to retailers.

For return point operators, it covers the costs of:

  • the purchase, lease, maintenance and upkeep of any reverse vending machine associated with the collection and storage of scheme packaging;
  • materials used for the collection and storage of scheme packaging;
  • the rental value of any floor space used only for deposit return scheme collection and storage;
  • staff time dedicated solely to the collection and storage of scheme packaging.

For distance sales retailers operating a takeback service, it covers the costs:

  • associated with use of a vehicle to collect scheme packaging;
  • materials used for the collection and storage of scheme packaging;
  • the rental value of any floor space used only for deposit return scheme collection and storage;
  • staff time dedicated solely to the collection and storage of scheme packaging;
  • the delivery costs associated with return of that scheme packaging.

For hospitality retailers, it covers the costs of:

  • materials used for the collection and storage of scheme packaging.

The handling fee will be determined annually. Further information about handling fees is available on the Circularity Scotland website.

Collecting and storing empty scheme containers takes up time and space, will I get reimbursed for this?

Producers, or the scheme administrator acting on their behalf, will pay a handling fee to retailers providing a takeback service, return point operators and hospitality retailers for each empty scheme container they collect and store. The handling fee will reflect the costs incurred for time, equipment and additional storage needed to operate as a return point. It will also cover vehicle and delivery costs associated with takeback services.

The handling fee will be determined annually. Further information about handling fees is available on the Circularity Scotland website.

Timescales

When does the scheme go live?

The timetable for the introduction of Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme is set out in The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020. The key dates are as follows:

  • 1 January 2023: from this date producers can register with SEPA.
  • 16 August 2023: the scheme goes live. All drinks produced in scheme containers for sale to a consumer in Scotland must bear a deposit and retailers who sell drinks must operate return points (unless exempt).

When can I start to charge the deposit on the drinks I sell?

Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme goes live on 16 August 2023. This means that from the 16 August 2023 onwards, if you are selling any drinks that are part of the scheme (scheme articles) you will have to charge the 20p deposit on each drink you sell.

Drinks are scheme articles and part of the scheme if they are packaged in a single-use container made from PET plastic, glass, steel or aluminium sized between 50ml and 3 litres, and were produced to be first marketed or offered for sale to a consumer in Scotland on or after the 16 August 2023.

After the scheme goes live, will I be able to sell stock that was on my shelves or in my warehouse before 16 August 2023?

Yes, you will still be able to sell these items. They are called ‘non-scheme articles’ and a deposit should not be charged to the consumer on these drinks. Retailers must make it clear to consumers at the point of purchase that they are buying a non-scheme article and that they will not receive a 20p refund for the packaging if they take it to a return point.

Is there a time limit for returning scheme packaging?

The Regulations do not set a time limit for the consumer to return scheme packaging to a return point or use a takeback service. The timeframes for return will be influenced by consumer behaviour, with some scheme packaging being returned more quickly than others. For example, a consumer might return a bottle of water within days of purchase but wait several years to return a premium bottle of spirit.

When are you publishing guidance?

You can find information about The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020 and guidance on what the obligations might mean for you and your business on our website and in our FAQs.

We are developing guidance for producers, retailers and return point operators to help them understand what they need to do to meet their obligations under the Regulations. We are working with trade associations, producers and retailers to identify what areas of scheme design and operation require regulatory guidance and welcome input to ensure guidance is applicable when it is released.

What was the outcome of the Gateway Review?

The Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity provided an update on the Gateway Review and its findings to the Scottish Parliament on 14 December 2021. In her statement she announced that the scheme will go-live in August 2023. Further information about the announcement is available on the Scottish Government website.  

The Scottish Government published the findings of the Gateway Review on 14 December.

Producer Registration

Who needs to register for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme?

Under the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020, all drinks producers that want to sell their products (scheme articles) in Scotland must register with SEPA to be part of the scheme. One registration is required per producer, each year, regardless of the number of sites they operate.

A producer is:

  • a drinks brand owner or importer into the UK market;
  • the website operator for online sales;
  • companies that fill and seal drinks into single-use scheme containers at the point of sale for customers to takeaway.

How do producers register?

There are two ways that a producer can register to be part of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme - either directly with SEPA or through the scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland.

Visit our Producer page for more information about registering directly with SEPA, or the Circularity Scotland website for information on appointing the scheme administrator to act on your behalf.

When can producers register?

Producers will be able to register with SEPA from 1 January 2023. All registrations must be received by 1 March 2023. Information about registering through the scheme administrator is available on the Circularity Scotland website.

Producers will need to renew their registration annually and will be able to do so between 1 January and 1 March each year.

How much is the registration fee?

Producers will pay an annual registration fee to SEPA, either directly or via a scheme administrator (depending on the route they choose for registration). No VAT is charged on the registration fee. This fee will be applied according to the size of the businesses:

  • there will be no registration fee for:
    • producers with an annual turnover of £85,000 or lower;
    • producers that only fill and seal single-use drink containers at point of sale (e.g. crowlers).
  • for all other producers, the registration fee will be £365.

Does a renewal cost the same as an initial registration?

Yes, producers will pay an annual registration fee. This fee will be applied according to the size of the businesses:

  • there will be no registration fee for:
    • producers with an annual turnover of £85,000 or lower;
    • producers that only fill and seal single-use drink containers at point of sale (e.g. crowlers).
  • for all other producers, the registration fee will be £365.

Do I need to register with both SEPA and the scheme administrator?

No, you should register either with SEPA or the scheme administrator but not both.

If you choose to register with SEPA directly, you must show how you will meet your producer obligations. You will also report data directly to SEPA.

If you choose to register via the scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland, they will register you with SEPA, help you meet your producer obligations and undertake reporting duties on your behalf.

How do I know which producers are registered?

We will publish and maintain an online public register of all producers who are registered to market and sell scheme articles on the Scottish market. You will be able to check the register to see who has registered to be part of the scheme.

The register will be available once the producer registration window closes in March 2023.

Labelling and signage

What are the labelling requirements; do I need to change how I label my products?

The Regulations do not require you to change your labelling. There is no specific requirement for you to add new labelling or bar codes to drink containers (scheme articles) sold in Scotland. You may decide that changing your labelling will help minimise fraud and improve the return of containers. This is something you can do if you choose to.

If you choose to join a scheme administrator, they will take appropriate measures to minimise fraud and inform consumers that products are part of the deposit return scheme. They will work with producers to establish any common identifiers that support the scheme and their operational requirements. More information on labelling is available on Circularity Scotland’s website.

Do I need to include the deposit on price-marked items?

The Regulations do not require the value of the deposit to be printed on the drink container. However, you must clearly display the deposit any place where the article is marketed for sale. It is an offence under the Regulations not to do so.

There may be other legislation or regulations that cover trading standards, pricing and labelling that you may need to consider.

We understand that the exact labelling solution or price display may be different for different producers, retailers and drinks but price information should always be clear to ensure consumers are not confused about whether there is a deposit associated with the drink or not.

How should I display deposit information in my store?

You must display the deposit amount clearly and separately from the price in any place where a drink in a scheme container is offered for sale. This means the customer is aware of the cost of the deposit before deciding to purchase, allowing them to make an informed choice. It is an offence under the Regulations not to display this information.

Please note for multipacks this would mean that the total amount of the deposit is displayed, rather than the deposit amount per item. For example, for a multipack containing six drinks the deposit displayed would be £1.20.

The Regulations do not specify the format for displaying the deposit. We understand that prices displayed in-store may be different for different retailers and different drinks, but deposit information should always be clear to ensure customers are not confused about the deposit associated with the drink or drinks they are buying.

The Regulations also require you to display information in-store about how the deposit can be redeemed.

How do I display deposit information on my website?

You must display the deposit amount clearly and separately from the price in any place where a drink in a scheme container is offered for sale. This includes online retail platforms.

Providing deposit information means the customer is aware of the cost of the deposit before deciding to purchase so can make an informed choice. It is an offence under the Regulations not to display this information.

We understand that there will be different scenarios for different retailers and producers, and we want you to be able to apply the best solution for your online retail platform. Deposit information should always be clear to ensure customers are not confused about the deposit associated with the drink or drinks they are buying.

The Regulations also require that you provide information about how the deposit can be redeemed. For online sales this includes provision of a takeback service.

Do I need to itemise the deposit on receipts and at tills?

The Regulations do not require the deposit to be displayed on receipts, although a retailer may wish to include or itemise it to help customers understand the difference between the amount charged and the price of their goods.

Similarly, the Regulations do not require the deposit to be displayed on tills. It will be down to individual retailers to decide how they set up their tills, although a retailer may wish to include or itemise the deposit to help customers understand the difference between the amount charged and the price of their goods.

Return points

What is a return point?

Return points are where consumers can return their empty drink containers (scheme packaging) and get their deposit back. A cash amount equal to the deposit will be reimbursed for each item of scheme packaging returned. Scheme packaging can be returned to any return point regardless of where the drink was originally bought.

A return point can be operated manually (scheme containers handed over the counter and the deposit refunded by the retailer), or a retailer can install a reverse vending machine (RVM) on their premises (automatically accepts empty containers and refunds deposits).

What is a voluntary return point?

A voluntary return point is a return point operated by an organisation or business that has no obligation under the Regulations to operate one but has chosen to do so. For example, voluntary return points may be operated at transport hubs or in shopping centres. Voluntary return points can also be run by charities or community groups.

What is a reverse vending machine?

A reverse vending machine (RVM) is a machine that allows a consumer to insert an empty drink container (item of scheme packaging) in exchange for their deposit. The machine scans the scheme packaging to ensure it is part of the scheme before issuing the deposit. The returned scheme packaging is stored within the RVM for collection by the scheme administrator. Scheme packaging can be returned to any RVM, regardless of where the drink was originally bought.

Can I refuse to accept empty scheme containers/scheme packaging?

A return point operator has a legal responsibility to accept scheme packaging that is returned from a consumer. However, the operator can refuse to accept scheme packaging if:

  • the container is soiled, broken, not empty or not identifiable as being part of the scheme.
  • the return point is full and waiting for collection or uplift.
  • a consumer attempts to return more empty scheme containers than the number of drinks normally sold in a single transaction.

Can I be exempt from operating a return point?

Yes, retailers can apply for an exemption from acting as a return point. There are two types of exemption:

Proximity exemption - if there is an alternative return point located within reasonable distance to your premises, and the operator of that return point has agreed to accept the returns on your behalf.

Environmental health - if there is no reasonable way for you to operate a return point on your premises without risking of being in breach of other legislation, such as environmental health, food or fire safety, or environmental protection. 

The exemptions service for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme is run by Zero Waste Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers. Please visit the Zero Waste Scotland website for further information on exemptions.

Can a landlord operate a return point on behalf of tenant retailers?

Yes. In many cases it will be the preferred approach for a landlord to register a voluntary return point to manage reverse vending machines on behalf of a group of retailers in a shopping centre or retail park.  

The landlord would have to register as a voluntary return point with Zero Waste Scotland and ensure that the return point is proportionately sized and reasonably located for the businesses it covers. All retailers not operating their own return points would have to register an exemption with Zero Waste Scotland.

Zero Waste Scotland provide guidance on exemptions and process the application(s) for both operating a voluntary return point and the exemption from operating a return point for the retailers concerned. Further information on voluntary return points and exemptions is available on their website.

Do retailers that operate a return point need to register with SEPA?

No, there is no requirement for retailers to register with SEPA.

If you operate a return point you will have to register with the scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland. They are responsible for the day-to-day management of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. This includes responsibility for the collection of all returned containers and the management of deposits and payments. Further information about registering as a return point operator is available on the Circularity Scotland website.

Are empty scheme containers/scheme packaging classed as waste?

Empty scheme containers (scheme packaging) returned by a consumer are waste and therefore subject to regulatory control.

Storage, sorting and transport of scheme packaging will need to be carried out with the appropriate duty of care and waste authorisation in place. The waste authorisation you need will depend on the amount and type of material handled. If you operate a return point it is likely that you will fit within the limits of an exemption from waste management licensing. More information is available in our regulatory position statement: Collection of scheme packaging as part of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.

Can I store different types of empty scheme containers/scheme packaging (e.g. PET, aluminium, steel, glass) together (co-mingled) or do I need to store each container type separately?

Return point operators can store empty scheme containers (scheme packaging) made from PET, aluminium and steel together (co-mingled) as long as the following conditions are met:

  • all scheme packaging must be stored securely;
  • empty glass scheme containers must be stored separately from empty PET, aluminium and steel scheme containers;
  • you do not store scheme packaging for longer than 12 months;
  • storing scheme packaging must not endanger human health or the environment and must not:
    • cause risk to water, air, soil, plants and animals;
    • cause nuisance through noise and odours;
    • adversely impact the countryside or places of interest.

Empty scheme containers made from glass must be stored separately from empty scheme containers made from PET, aluminium or steel.

When storing any scheme packaging, you must also ensure you comply with waste duty of care requirements.

More information is available in our regulatory position statement: Collection of scheme packaging as part of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme, and more general information on how to store and manage waste can be found in the Duty of Care: code of practice for managing controlled waste.

I run a hospitality business that is not required to operate a return point, who collects my scheme packaging?

If you are a hospitality business that only sells drinks for consumption on your premises (i.e. operating a closed loop system), you should collect and store scheme packaging for collection by a producer or scheme administrator. Further information on collections for hospitality businesses is available on the Circularity Scotland website.

Takeback service for distance or online sales

What is a takeback service?

A takeback service is a collection service that must be provided by online retailers or distance sellers to consumers in Scotland. This allows for the return of empty drink containers (scheme packaging) from the drinks purchased online or by distance sale. The takeback service is offered from the place of delivery (e.g. your home address).

Scheme packaging is collected and returned to either the retailer’s premises, a return point or a location for storage pending collection by a producer (or scheme administrator). Following collection, a cash amount equal to the deposit will be reimbursed to the customer for each item of scheme packaging returned.

You can find more information about takeback services, including buying gifts for people in Scotland, on our Online retailers page and in our FAQs.

Can I be exempt from providing a takeback service?

No, there is no provision in the regulations to exempt retailers from operating a takeback service.

Every distance retailer selling scheme articles to consumers in Scotland must charge the deposit, display required information and offer consumers of their products a takeback service from the point of delivery.

Can I charge a consumer for a takeback service?

No, an online retailer must provide a takeback service from the point of delivery free of charge to the consumer.

The retailer can apply a temporary charge to cover the cost of materials or packaging used for collection and takeback. This charge must not be more than the value of the materials used. Once the empty scheme containers are returned, the customer must be refunded for any charge applied.

The retailer must also pay back the 20p deposit for each scheme container returned by the consumer.

Can I refuse to takeback empty containers/pay back the deposit?

You only have to accept returns of scheme containers you have sold to that customer. As a takeback service operator, you can refuse to accept a return of containers disproportionately greater than the average number of drinks you normally sell in a single transaction.

A takeback service operator does not have to provide a refund if the returned packaging is:  

  • not identifiable as being part of the scheme; 
  • soiled;
  • broken or damaged;
  • not empty.

What is the timeframe for redeeming the deposit (and any other charges) on returns via a takeback service?

The Regulations do not specify a service level agreement or timeframe for redeeming the deposit or refunding any temporary charges to the customer. We would consider a reasonable delay to allow for verification of returned packaging to be acceptable. This should be communicated to the customer at the point of choosing the takeback option.

We will apply a test of reasonableness and transparency, and investigate any complaints of online retailers or distance sellers discouraging the use of a takeback service with unreasonable delays.

Do customers have to request a takeback collection of scheme packaging at the point of sale?

No, a customer does not have to request or arrange for a takeback collection at the point of sale. They can request a takeback collection for scheme packaging from the drinks they have bought online at any point after purchase.

Is there a time limit to request takeback for scheme packaging after purchase?

No, the Regulations do not set a time limit for the consumer to request a takeback for scheme articles purchased online. The timeframes for return will be influenced by consumer behaviour, with some scheme packaging being returned more quickly than others. For example, a consumer might request takeback for a bottle of water within days of purchase but wait several years to request takeback for a premium bottle of spirit.

Can a retailer pre-arrange a date for takeback collection?

Yes, we would consider it to be acceptable for a takeback collection to be pre-arranged with the customer. However, the takeback service must be available without an obligation of making a further purchase.

Do I need to provide a takeback service from the delivery address or the billing address?

For sale of scheme articles online or through distance sales to consumers in Scotland, the retailer must offer a takeback service from the point of delivery.

One of the aims of the scheme is to increase recycling of specific materials in Scotland in a way that helps these resources be used for as long as possible. Using the delivery address ensures that drinks in scheme containers that are purchased through online retail and delivered to consumers in Scotland can be returned through the scheme.

How does it work for click and collect orders; can a customer use a takeback service for these products?

For sale of drinks online or through distance sales, the retailer must offer a takeback service from the point of delivery. This would include sales made using click and collect, as the point of sale is distant from the point of delivery. In this instance, the point of delivery would be considered the location where the customer collects the order, for example, at a store or retail outlet. As there are likely to be return points at these locations, we would consider it reasonable for customers to use these return points to return their empty containers and redeem deposits.

In situations where a return point is not located close to the click and collect point, the retailer would need to provide a return point.

Do online takeaways and food delivery companies have to offer a takeback service?

Yes, if you are selling drinks in scheme containers (scheme articles) through online sales then we would consider you to be a distance retailer. This means you are required to offer a takeback service to customers that buy scheme articles through your online retail platform or website.

I am based outside Scotland and sell products online, including to Scottish customers. Do I have to offer a takeback service?

Yes, you will have to offer a takeback service for your Scottish customers.

Any packaging collected can be returned to the producer, or the retailer (including through a return point).

If you sell drinks in scheme containers on the Scottish market, the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020 apply to you. For online retailers and distance sellers, this includes charging the deposit, complying with signage requirements and offering a takeback service to consumers for the empty containers of the drinks they have purchased, regardless of where the business is situated. The takeback service must be offered free of charge from the point of delivery.

Do customers have to use a takeback service to redeem the deposit on drinks purchased online?

No. A takeback service must be offered from the point of delivery for all scheme articles purchased through online or distance sales. Customers do not have to use the takeback service offered and can return their empty containers to any return point. In many cases a takeback service will be the best way for scheme packaging from drinks purchased online to be returned.

Takeback services ensure the scheme is accessible for all, including those who rely on home deliveries, and that everyone across Scotland has access to the same high quality recycling services. It should be as easy to return an item of scheme packaging and redeem the deposit as it is to buy the drink.

What measures are in place to help online and distance retailers provide a takeback service?

An online retailer must provide a takeback service free of charge from the point of delivery. However, there are charges that a retailer can apply to help cover additional costs incurred by collecting, storing and returning scheme packaging.

An online retailer or distance seller can:

  • apply a temporary charge to the customer to cover the cost of materials or packaging used for collection and takeback. This charge must not be more than the value of the materials used. Once the empty scheme containers are returned, the customer must be refunded for any charge applied.
  • charge a reasonable handling fee to the producer (or scheme administrator acting on their behalf) whose scheme packaging has been returned through the takeback service. This handling fee takes into account:
    • cost associated with vehicle use for collection of scheme packaging;
    • cost of materials used for the collection and storage of scheme packaging;
    • rental value of any floor space used solely for collection and storage of scheme packaging;
    • staff time spent solely on collection and storage of scheme packaging;
    • cost associated with return of scheme packaging.

       

       

Do I need to include information about how customers can redeem the deposit on my website?

For online or distance retail sales, in any place where a scheme article is displayed for sale, you must clearly display information about how the deposit can be redeemed. It is an offence under the Regulations not to display this information.

For online sales this information should include details of the takeback service provided and any additional information relating to this, such as any temporary charges that may be applied when using this service.

We understand that there will be different solutions for different retailers, and we want you to be able to apply the best solution for your online retail platform. Customers buying drinks through online sales do not have to use the takeback service and can return their empty containers to any return point.

Can a third-party provider operate a takeback service on behalf of a retailer?

The retailer that sold the item must offer a takeback service to the consumer who purchased it, but there is no barrier to a third party undertaking the service on their behalf so long as the Regulations are complied with.

Do I need a waste carrier licence to collect scheme packaging?

Yes. Empty containers (scheme packaging) are waste and therefore subject to regulatory control. Any retailer that operates a takeback service should ensure that they, or their service provider, are authorised to carry/transport waste and are registered as a waste carrier.

A business only needs to hold one waste carriers licence – there is no need to register each employee individually unless they are working as private individuals. Further information and guidance on registering as a waste carrier is available on the waste carriers and brokers page of our website.

A retailer using a third-party provider to operate their takeback service is responsible for ensuring that the provider they use is a registered waste carrier. Check our registered waste carriers list for of details of currently registered waste carriers or brokers.

Can scheme packaging be carried in the same vehicle as fresh food?

Empty containers (scheme packaging) are waste. To be compliant with waste regulations, and to allow the recycling of the drinks containers, the scheme packaging cannot be contaminated with any organic matter or material that would prevent its recovery (a small amount of drink residue is ok). Waste materials and fresh food could be carried in the same vehicle as long as there is sufficient separation and a barrier to prevent contamination.

Retailers should also ensure that material is transported in a way that is compliant with environmental health regulations. We have discussed transporting waste and fresh food in the same vehicle with the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (environmental health professional body) who support the principles of physical separation of materials. It should be noted that environmental health is regulated at a local authority level; operators would need to satisfy the requirements of their own environmental health regulator.

Other regulations

What other waste regulations do I need to know about?

If you operate a return point (either a reverse vending machine (RVM) or manual return) or collect scheme packaging through a takeback service, you should be familiar with waste Duty of Care requirements and what that means for you and your business. This includes how you store, segregate and transport your waste.

More information about Duty of Care is available in the Duty of Care: code of practice for managing controlled waste.

Do I need a waste management licence to operate a return point?

Empty drink containers (scheme packaging) returned by a consumer are waste and therefore subject to regulatory control.

SEPA has taken the regulatory position that we will not take enforcement action against a return point operator who does not hold a waste management license or exemption provided that certain conditions are adhered to.

Full details of our regulatory position and the conditions that apply, can be found in SEPA position statement: Collection of scheme packaging as part of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.

Do I need a waste carrier licence to collect scheme packaging?

Yes. Empty drink containers (scheme packaging) are waste and therefore subject to regulatory control. Any retailer that operates a takeback service should ensure that they, or their service provider, are authorised to carry/transport waste and are registered as a waste carrier.

A business only needs to hold one waste carriers licence – there is no need to register each employee individually unless they are working as private individuals. Further information and guidance on registering as a waste carrier is available on the Waste carriers and brokers web page.

A retailer using a third-party provider to operate their takeback service is responsible for ensuring that the third-party provider is a registered waste carrier. Check our registered waste carriers list for of details of currently registered waste carriers or brokers.

How will Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme work alongside producer responsibility obligations for packaging?

The Scottish Government has confirmed that drink container packaging, that are also scheme articles under the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme system, will be exempt from the requirements and obligations under The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007.

The Scottish Government intends to consult industry soon on how this will work in practice.

Definitions

What is a scheme article?

A scheme article is a drink that is contained in single-use packaging that is:

  • made from PET plastic, glass, steel or aluminium;
  • between 50ml 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 16 August 2023;
  • made available to be sold by the producer for the purposes of its retail in Scotland.

In some guidance, you may also see scheme articles being referred to as drink containers.

What is a non-scheme article?

A non-scheme article is a drink that meets all the criteria listed in the definition of scheme-article but was produced before 16 August 2023.

What is a non-Scottish article?

A non-Scottish article is a drink that meets all the criteria listed in the definition of scheme article but was not produced for the purposes of retail sale in Scotland. It is an offence to sell a non-Scottish article to a consumer in Scotland.

What is scheme packaging?

Scheme packaging is the packaging material that comes into direct contact with the drink (e.g. the bottle or can). This does not include any packaging used to group together two or more drinks in a multipack (e.g. plastic wrap).

In some guidance, you may also see scheme packaging being referred to as empty drink containers.

What is a drink?

The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020 define a ’drink’ as a beverage intended for human consumption, including concentrated soft drinks. The Regulations do not limit or expand on the meaning of ‘beverage’ in this definition.

If you are unclear if a product is in scope of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme, you may find the HMRC’s Beverage Test helpful in deciding if a product should be identified as a beverage.

Any flavourings, syrups (including coffee syrups), sauces or ingredients (e.g. lemon juice) that might be added to a drink but are not themselves a drink, are not in scope of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.

SEPA may request information from producers to demonstrate why they consider that a product is not in scope.

What are examples of drinks that are in-scope of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme?

The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of beverages which, when contained in scheme packaging, would be in scope:

  • bottled water, fruit juice, fizzy drinks;
  • beer, wine, spirits;
  • sports drinks (including electrolyte and energy drinks);
  • milkshakes;
  • pre-made drink mixers and ready to drink beverages;
  • concentrates such as cordial and squash to be diluted.

Who is a producer?

A producer is:

  • a drinks brand owner (for scheme articles branded in the UK);
  • an importer of drinks into the UK for sale on the Scottish market (for scheme articles branded outwith the UK);
  • someone selling drinks in single-use containers that are filled and sealed by the retailer at the point of sale (e.g. a crowler).

You can find more information about producers and their obligations on our Producer page.

Who is a wholesaler?

A wholesaler is someone who markets, offers for sale or sells drinks (scheme articles) 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.

You can find more information about wholesalers and their obligations on our Wholesaler page.

Who is a retailer?

A retailer is someone who markets, offers for sale or sells scheme articles (drinks) to a consumer in Scotland. This includes face-to-face retail, online retail, sales in a hospitality setting, sales from vending machines, and wholesalers.

You can find more information about retailers and their obligations on our Retailer page.

Who is a hospitality retailer?

A hospitality retailer is someone who sells scheme articles (drinks) in a hospitality setting such as a bar, restaurant, or café. They sell drinks exclusively for the purposes of consumption on the premises.

For the purposes of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme, hospitality businesses that sell drinks for consumption off site of the premises of sale (i.e. to takeaway) are retailers.

A hospitality retailer has slightly different obligations to a retailer. You can find more information about hospitality retailers and retailers, and their obligations, on our Hospitality page and Retailers page.

What is a premises?

Any place in Scotland where scheme articles are sold to consumers are ‘retail premises’ for the purposes of the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020. The definition of Scotland (for the purposes of the Regulations) includes the territorial sea adjacent to Scotland.

Where scheme articles are sold to consumers, retail premises can include:

  • temporary and movable structures such as tents or stalls situated on land;
  • vehicles such as food vans, trains, planes or buses;
  • ferries and other vessels operating in Scottish waters.

Can't find what you're looking for?

If you can’t find the information you need or the answer to your question, please contact us.

There is also further information about Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme available of the Circularity Scotland and Zero Waste Scotland websites.