Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme applies to the sale of drinks in hospitality settings. As a hospitality business, you may have slightly different obligations depending on the type of business you operate.

For the purposes of the scheme, you are a hospitality retailer if you:

  • sell drinks exclusively for the purpose of consumption on the premises of sale (e.g. pubs and restaurants).

Hospitality businesses that sell drinks for consumption off-site of the premises of sale (i.e. drinks to takeaway), are considered to be retailers.

Some sectors, which are not hospitality, such as residential or industrial settings may also sell drinks only for consumption on site and the obligations below will also apply to you.

What does this mean for me?

All drinks that are sold in single-use containers made from PET plastic, glass, steel or aluminium, sized between 50ml and 3 litres are included in Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. These are called scheme articles. You may also see them being referred to as scheme containers or, once empty, scheme packaging.

If you are a hospitality business selling scheme articles in Scotland, you will have legal responsibilities that you must comply with under The Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020. These are called retailer obligations.

Your obligations will be slightly different depending on your operating model.

Hospitality operating models and your retailer obligations

On-site consumption only: if you sell drinks exclusively for consumption on the premises of sale (e.g. pub, restaurant) you are a hospitality retailer and must:

  • only sell drinks from registered producers;
  • only sell drinks that the producer has made available for sale in Scotland;
  • pay the 20p deposit to your supplier for each scheme article purchased;
  • store empty containers in a safe way, following the Duty of Care code of practice.

In this scenario, scheme packaging is not expected to leave the premises and therefore there is no requirement to charge customers the deposit. You should collect and store the scheme packaging for collection by a producer or scheme administrator.

On-site consumption and take away: some hospitality businesses will operate both as hospitality retailers (on-site consumption) and as retailers (consumption off the premises) – selling drinks to be drunk on the premises and to takeaway. In this scenario, you must meet all the retailer obligations set out in the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020, including operating a return point (unless exempt).

However, you only need to apply the deposit to those drinks that are sold for off-site consumption. It is up to each hospitality retailer how this is managed. The hospitality retailer is responsible for operating their business in a way that is compliant with the Regulations. This means ensuring any drinks sold without a deposit applied are not taken from the premises by the customer and that the deposit is applied to those drinks sold for consumption off-site. You will need to make it clear to the customer which drinks the deposit applies to.

If you are a bar, pub or other retailer that sells drinks in single-use packaging sealed at the point of sale, such as a crowler, you are also a producer and must register with SEPA. More information about producer obligations and what this might mean for you, is available on our Producers page.

Drinks that are sold in packaging designed to be refillable and reusable, such as milk in returnable bottles and beer in growlers, are not in scope of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.

Selling drinks to take away only: if you only sell drinks for consumption off the premises of sale (e.g. no drinks are consumed on site) for the purposes of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme, your business operates as a retailer and you must meet all your retailer obligations. Please visit our Retailers page for further information.

Return points

Return points are where consumers can return their empty scheme containers and get their deposit back.

All retailers and hospitality business that sell drinks to take away are legally required to operate a return point. If you only sell drinks for consumption on the premises of sale or from a vending machine you do not have to operate a return point.

Further information about return points is available on our Retailer page and in the Return points section of our FAQs.

Can I be exempt from operating a return point?

Yes, retailers and hospitality businesses 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 being in breach of other legislation, such as environmental health, food or fire safety. 

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.

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. You will be able to check this to make sure you are only selling drinks from producers that are registered to be part of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.

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


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