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New Deposit Return Scheme legislation goes live on 16 August 2023 in Scotland, while England, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow in 2024.

The scheme provides an incentive for everyone to recycle their used bottles and cans. This will help in the fight against climate change, reduce the prevalence of litter, protect our ecosystems and save millions of pounds in clean-up and other associated costs!

What’s included?

The deposit return scheme will include all single-use drinks containers made of PET plastic, metal and glass and will cover both alcoholic and soft drinks. The scheme will not include HDPE plastic containers (the kind used for milk and some other drinks) or lined cardboard containers like Tetrapak.

How does the scheme work for customers?

When they buy a drink in a single-use container they will pay a 20p deposit, which they get back when they return their empty bottle or can.

Where to return containers?

People will be able to return bottles and cans to any retail, and hospitality premises that sell drinks to take away, in single-use PET plastic, metal or glass containers.

Some of these will accept items over the counter, while larger stores, shopping centres and transport hubs will operate automated receiving points known as reverse vending machines (RVMs).

Online retailers will also collect empty drinks containers and refund deposits.

How will refunds work?

Refunds will be offered as either a cash payment over the counter or a voucher if the return point operates a reverse vending machine. Vouchers can be used to pay for shopping in stores or exchanged for cash instead. In most cases, people will be able to donate their deposits to selected charities and community groups.

How the DRS impacts hospitality operators

Hospitality businesses, like restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels sell millions of bottles and cans each year. These businesses will have a key role to play, but may have slightly different obligations depending on the type of business they operate.

Take away – Consumption off the premises

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

  • only sell drinks from registered producers that have registered for the scheme
  • only sell drinks to consumers in Scotland that a producer has made available for sale in Scotland;
  • charge the 20p deposit when selling a drink that is part of the scheme;
  • make it clear to the customer that the drink is part of the scheme and a deposit applies;
  • clearly display the price of the deposit (20p) in any place that a drink is displayed for sale;
  • clearly display information on how the customer can redeem the deposit;
  • operate a return point (unless exempt) or takeback service;
  • store returned empty containers in a safe way, following the Duty of Care code of practice

Your obligations might vary slightly depending on how you sell drinks to consumers. Please look at our information for online retailers, hospitality retailers and wholesalers to find out what this means for you:

Online retailers
Hospitality retailers
Vending machine sales only

Onsite consumption

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 that have registered for the scheme
  • 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.

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 taken away.

In this scenario, operators 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)

We are here to help

The Pelican team is working closely with the brands, wholesalers and the industry and will share more details about the upcoming Deposit Return Scheme legislation. If you need advice or support, please contact our team on 01252 705214 or

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