Scotland announces proposals for a deposit return scheme, to begin in 2020

The Scottish Government announced proposals for a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers on 8 May, making it the first part of the UK to press ahead with a scheme.

Legislation is expected to follow later in the year, with the scheme becoming mandatory in 2020. It aims to capture 90% of containers which attract a deposit for recycling.

Announcing the proposed scheme as “ambitious in scale and scope”, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for the environment, Roseanna Cunningham said that it “gives the people of Scotland a clear and straightforward way to do their bit for the environment.”

Participation in the scheme will be mandatory for all retailers selling drinks to consumers, she said. And it will be administered by an independent, not-for-profit company.

A plan that seemingly leans towards the “all in” model of DRS, it will include all PET plastic drinks bottles, aluminium steel cans, and glass bottles. And it will apply to all containers ranging in size from 50ml (the size of whiskey miniatures) to 3 litres (the size of a beer keg). The deposit level for containers will be set at 20p.

Jill Farrell, Chief Operating Officer, Zero Waste Scotland, said:
“This will be a game-changer for recycling and the circular economy in Scotland. By giving people an extra incentive to do something good for our environment, and having a consistent approach across Scotland, we are confident it will be easier for all of us to do the right thing. This will improve the volume and quality of recycling and help tackle litter in the process.

Spokespeople from the retail and packaging sectors were also approving of the scheme, but also appeared slightly cautious. The British Plastics Federation (BPF) said: “A comprehensive deposit return scheme (DRS) that includes all materials is to be welcomed if it boosts recycling rates and encourages a culture where everybody recycles as much as possible and creates less waste.”

“However, we need to introduce these schemes carefully so they do not significantly raise the price of products, disadvantage smaller retailers or cause major disruption to existing recycling schemes.”

“In light of the above and the fact that reforms to extended producer responsibilities are currently being examined, it makes sense to aim to implement a UK-wide, multi-material DRS once extended producer responsibilities have been clarified and any complications that arise in Scotland have been resolved.”

“We hope implementing this multi-material scheme in Scotland goes smoothly, increases investment in its recycling and waste management infrastructure, and sets a fine example for what can be achieved across the UK.”

Zero Waste Scotland has provided a page that offers more information, including videos, infographics and FAQs.