Deposit return scheme to go live in Scotland in 2023

The Scottish Government has announced that a deposit return scheme (DRS) will go live in Scotland in the summer of 2023.

Despite Scotland's 0.3% rise in recycling, its rate remains the lowest in the UK with other nations still to submit for 2022

In a statement on 14 December, it announced that the scheme will go live on 16 August 2023, “helping to recycle billions of bottles and cans every year”.

A phased approach is to be taken and collection processes are planned to start-up from November 2022.

A 20p deposit will be paid by when on purchasing a drink that comes in a single-use container made of PET plastic, steel and aluminium, or glass. The money will be refunded when the empty container is returned to one of tens of thousands of return points, the Scottish Government said.

Regulations asking Scotland’s Parliament to approve the change in go-live date will be laid on Wednesday 15 December.

Legal requirement

The Minister said the legal requirement to collect at least 90% of eligible containers will now have to be met in the second year of operation, not the third. This means that the scheme will still be expected to meet its original target of achieving 90% collection rates by 2024.

The announcement follows an independent review, which considered the impact of COVID-19 on the scheme.

Addressing the Scottish parliament, the Circular Economy Minister, Lorna Slater set out plans for a phased implementation of the scheme, and said the target of achieving 90% collection rates by 2024 will be maintained.

This will be ‘one of the most environmentally ambitious and accessible in Europe’

– Minister Lorna Slater

As part of the phased implementation, the Scottish Government is working with retailers on a voluntary basis to enable people to start returning their bottles and cans for recycling from November 2022.

Minister Slater said: “This will be the first scheme of its kind in the UK and one of the most environmentally ambitious and accessible in Europe.

“Implementing a scheme on this scale is a massive national undertaking involving tens of thousands of producers and retailers. Given the challenges that the pandemic and Brexit have placed upon these businesses, it is disappointing – but understandable – that the independent review concluded the original start date was no longer feasible.

“Despite calls to water down the scheme by removing materials or waiting for other nations to catch up, we have maintained our ambition and ensured that the scheme will still meet its original target of achieving 90% collection rates by 2024.”

She continued: “We have also published a clear plan for delivery, with critical milestones on the path to full implementation. These include use of return points on a voluntary basis by retailers from November 2022.”


The minister said that she was delighted that Orkney will “go early in offering a return scheme, which will provide benefits to the local community and recycling.”

Councillor Graham Sinclair, Chair of Orkney Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee, said: “Orkney Islands Council is committed to working with both local and national organisations to improve recycling rates and to ensure that materials are kept in use for as long as possible.  We welcome this initiative on the return of drinks containers in Orkney and are supportive of the aims and objectives.

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government, Circularity Scotland and Zero Waste Scotland to ensure that this initiative brings benefit to local community groups and increases opportunities for recycling drinks containers across all of Orkney.”

Iain Gulland described the DRS as a ‘gamechanger’


Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland described the scheme as a “gamechanger” with “multiple benefits including reduced carbon emissions, more and better recycling, and the removal of up to one third of the litter from our streets”.

Mr Gulland commented: “Despite the uncertainty wrought by the pandemic I’m delighted we now have a go-live date for this important scheme, which Zero Waste Scotland will continue to support. We are excited to be working with Orkney Islands Council, Circularity Scotland and the Scottish Government on an initiative on the islands of Orkney from next year.”

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