A deposit return scheme involves consumers paying a small amount of money (the deposit) for the container when they purchase a drink to take away. This is refunded in full when they return the empty container.    

The concept of a “deposit return” system for drinks containers is nothing new. Many people will remember getting money back for their “ginger” deposit bottles in the past but, rather than being limited to those brands which choose to operate their own deposit bottle return scheme, modern national deposit return schemes (DRS) require everyone producing and selling drinks in single-use containers to take part. 

Schemes like this are already operating successfully in many countries across Europe and in several US and Australian states. Scotland is proud to be the first UK nation to embrace the idea. The scheme is designed to deliver two major benefits. It will ensure that materials are recycled to the very highest standards, helping to build a circular economy and  it will also reduce the incidence of litter.  As well as making Scotland a cleaner, greener place to live and visit, this will 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 much is the deposit?

Every item included in the container return scheme will carry a deposit of 20p which will be refunded to the consumer when they take it back to any return point. 

Where will I be able to return containers? 

You’ll be able to return your 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). 

How to return your drink container

Simply take your empty, PET plastic and glass bottles and metal drinks cans to a return point where you’ll be refunded with 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 some of your shopping in store or you can ask for cash instead. In most cases you will be able to donate your deposit to selected charities and community groups.

You’ll find return points anywhere you can buy drinks in containers included in the scheme and at a range of other participating sites. 

Online retailers will also collect your empty drinks containers and refund your deposit.

Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme

20p Deposit

The 20p deposit you pay for a disposable drinks container will be refunded when you return your empty container.

2.5 billion+

Is the number of recyclable drinks containers used in Scotland every year. The scheme aims to capture 90% of them.

Over 30,000

That’s how many return points there will be across Scotland including retailers, hospitality venues, charities and community organisations.

Less litter

Research suggests that the scheme will result in 34,000* fewer drinks containers littering our streets and countryside every day.

Lower costs

Tackling the indirect impacts of litter could save Scotland £62 million a year.*

Less CO2

A successful Deposit Return Scheme could reduce Scotland’s CO2e emissions by 4 million tonnes over 25 years*

* Stats provided by Zero Waste Scotland 


You’ll find details of the scheme’s design on the Zero Waste Scotland website.

Drinks producers and importers are responsible for delivering the scheme and Circularity Scotland has been created to administer the scheme on their behalf. Retailers also have a key role to play, operating the return points and handling the return of deposits. All drinks producers and importers must be registered with SEPA (Scotland’s Environmental Protection Agency) who will regulate the scheme.

If you register with Circularity Scotland, we will register your business with SEPA and undertake reporting duties on your behalf.

The scheme will launch on the 16th of August 2023. 

All of the containers collected will be recycled. Collecting them in this way ensures that they are not contaminated with other waste. This means they can be recycled in the most efficient way possible and the materials can be used to make more drinks containers. This is known as “closed loop” recycling and forms an essential part of a circular economy where nothing is wasted and energy use is minimised.