Biffa secures logistics contract for Scottish DRS

Biffa announced today (19 July) that it has secured a 10-year contract to provide logistics, sorting and counting services for the Scottish deposit return scheme (DRS).

From 16 August 2023, a refundable 20p deposit will apply to all in-scope drinks containers sold in Scotland

Circularity Scotland, the not-for-profit scheme administrator, has appointed Biffa to collect bottles and cans from around 30,000 locations across Scotland from next August and build and operate three counting centres.

The contract entails an estimated capital commitment of around £80 million “to be deployed by August 2023”, according to a trade update published by Biffa.

Biffa expects the agreement to create around 500 jobs in Scotland to support the collection, sorting and counting of products within scope of the scheme.

The waste management company is also working with Circularity Scotland to explore building a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling plant in Scotland, “to support the scheme and deliver further employment opportunities,” the trading update adds.

The plastic bottles Biffa collects will be converted into recycled pellets to be put back into the UK’s beverage supply chain.

Michael Topham, Biffa’s CEO, said: “We’re delighted to have been appointed to provide logistics, sorting and counting services for Scotland’s landmark deposit return scheme.

“This appointment is testament to the strength of Biffa’s reputation as a sustainable waste management provider to complex markets, our extensive capabilities and world leading recycling infrastructure.”


The move accelerates Scotland’s efforts to be the first country in the UK to implement a DRS. The other nations’ plans are still under consideration, though they expect to introduce their own schemes in 2024 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Michael Topham is chief executive of Biffa

Many industry groups have applied pressure to ensure the UK nations’ schemes align.

From 16 August 2023, a refundable 20p deposit will apply to all in-scope drinks containers sold in Scotland. This covers small 50ml containers to larger three-litre containers.

The DRS aims to capture at least 90% of all the drinks containers made from PET plastic, steel, aluminium, and glass in Scotland.

People will be able to return bottles and cans to any shop or hospitality venue in Scotland that operates as a return point.

Circularity Scotland

The Scottish Government appointed Circularity Scotland the scheme’s administrator in 2021.

David Harris, Circularity Scotland’s CEO, said: “The DRS scheme is a key part of Scotland’s move to a circular economy. It is one of the most significant environmental infrastructure projects ever introduced in the UK and the most comprehensive deposit return scheme anywhere in the world.”

Circularity Scotland is made up of a combination of drinks producers, trade associations and retailers and works with companies throughout the supply chain. It was set up specifically to administer the Scottish DRS.

Mr Harris added: “Bringing on board Biffa as our logistics service provider is another landmark moment in this work and their unparalleled expertise in supporting large scale and complex recycling schemes will help us to achieve the aim of capturing and recycling at least 90% of drinks containers made from PET plastic, aluminium, steel or glass.”

In May, the Scottish National Investment Bank promised Circularity Scotland £9 million in funding to develop its activities (see letsrecycle.com story).

Possible takeover

Founded in London in 1912, Biffa employs 10,000 people and says it collects waste from “thousands of businesses and millions of households across the UK each day”.

The company is currently in discussions with US private equity firm Energy Capital Partners (ECP) over a possible takeover (see letsrecycle.com story).

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