As the name suggests, these are return points operated by people who have no legal requirement to provide one. There are a variety of reasons why an organisation might choose to house a voluntary return point.

Typically, they will be operated by property owners managing facilities, such as shopping centres, hospitals, food courts and transport hubs which house multiple retailers or hospitality businesses.  Or they might be set up by a community group to act as a focal point for returns in areas not well served by other return points.

You can find out how to apply to set up a voluntary return point at the Zero Waste Scotland Website 

Collecting containers from the public 

Manual handling

Voluntary return points can be operated using manual handling where deposit containers are collected over the counter and deposits repaid to consumers from the till. Containers are stored in tote boxes and bags in store and collected on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This frequency will depend on the volume of returns.

Reverse vending machines

More often than not, Voluntary Return points will operate using one, or more, Reverse Vending Machine especially when they are in high traffic areas handling high volumes of recycling.


Voluntary return points applications are managed by Zero Waste Scotland. You can find out how to apply to set up a voluntary return point at their website.

If you succeed in getting approval from Scottish Government ministers, you will be able to register your Voluntary Return Point with Circularity Scotland.


Anyone can apply to operate a voluntary return point provided they can prove that they have sufficient operational and financial plans in place to set up and run the return point for at least one year.  They will need to show that they have funds in place to pay startup costs and that they can cover costs not reimbursed through the handling fee.

They will also need to show that they have carried out an analysis of the number of containers they will return in the average month. This could be based on factors such as the sales volume of exempted retailers for whom you will be providing an alternative return point. If your Voluntary Return Point is in a transport hub or shopping centre, your proposal could be based on the footfall of passengers or shoppers passing through the facility.