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Scottish DRS
Slide 1
Scottish DRS








The Scottish Government has announced that the Deposit Return Scheme will start on August 16, 2023.

Over the coming months, as more details of the scheme become available from the Scottish Government and scheme administrator Circularity Scotland, we will update this page to give you the information you need to operate DRS successfully in your store.

Three short videos to help retailers with the Scottish DRS

DRS – online retailer

DRS – small retailer

DRS – large retailer

At a glance, what we know

Update 11th March

The Fed has welcomed the announcement that the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency will not require retailers to obtain a Waste Management Licence, or obtain an exemption, for bottles and cans returned to their stores under the deposit return scheme.   The volume limits to this exemption are in excess of that likely to be returned to any member of The Fed. The official statement from SEPA with full details can be found here.

Update 28th February

Circularity Scotland have signed a letter of intent with Reverse Logistics Germany as the schemes IT partner.   We will be engaging with them in due course.


Update 20th January 2022

Circularity Scotland have announced that Biffa have been appointed preferred bidder for the logistics / back haul contract.

The NFRN will be engaging with Biffa to ensure that a robust system that works for all retailers is put in place.

When does DRS start?

DRS was scheduled to start on 1st July 2022. However, the Scottish Government has announced a review of this date, and will begin on August 16, 2023.

DRS in Scotland – The Basics

When the DRS starts you will need to charge a 20p deposit for every drinks bottle and can that you sell and take back empty bottles against the refund of the deposit.   Collected bottles will be collected from you and the deposit refunded.  You will also receive a per item handling fee.

To help we have put together this FAQ, which we will update as more information becomes available.

How the Scheme will Work – the Operational Details

The NFRN is working closely with the scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland, on the detail of how the scheme will work.

Over the coming month details of the collection of returned bottles and cans (“backhaul”), how retailers will be paid and the cost of reverse vending machines, for example, will be published and will be made available here.

Does it apply to England, Wales or Northern Ireland?

No but schemes are being discussed in these nations.


While all retailers are required to charge the deposit, those will small stores or in area with a number of stores or those who prepare food and for whom the cost of changes to the store to protect food safety would be prohibitive, may be able to get an exemption allowing them not to accept returns. 

Details of the return point exemptions and application forms can be found on the Scottish Government website here:

An FAQ about exemptions produced by Zero Waste Scotland can be found here.

Do I have to participate?

Yes. There will be a small number of exemptions from handling returns.  Scottish Ministers have not yet announced the criteria or application process.

Reverse Vending Machines

An alternative to collecting returns over the counter for retailers accepting higher volumes of bottles and cans is the use of a reverse vending machine, that allows customers to deposit their returns automatically and receive their deposit repaid in voucher form.

The economics of an RVM depend on the volumes processed, the specification of the machine and the level of the handling fee received by the retailer.   None of these are known yet.

The NFRN has been talking to RVM suppliers for some time and when details become available, they will be posted here.

Do I need planning permission to install a reverse vending machine?

The Scottish government has tabled regulations that, if passed, will mean that from 30th October 2020, planning permission will not be needed when installing a DRS related reverse vending machine, provide the machine is less than 3.5m high and has a footprint of less than 80 square metres.

The regulations, which list all of the requirement, can be found here:

Do I have to install a Reverse Vending Machine?

No. The NFRN fought for manual, over the counter, take back to be an option for retailers.

Will there be new barcodes on the bottles and cans?

This has yet to be decided.

Will the costs of drinks increase at the wholesalers?

Yes. Wholesalers will now charge you the deposit on each drinks can and bottle your purchase. Retailers will pass this on to the customer when they buy the drink.

Can I be exempt from collecting returned bottles and cans?

Scottish members who want to opt out of offering a deposit return scheme for drinks containers can now so via an application form on the Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) website.

The forms for applications and exemption can be found at DepositReturn.Scot, along with supporting information on eligibility and how to complete an application.

Having received the applications, Zero Waste Scotland will assess them against the eligibility criteria, and pass them to Scottish Ministers to take a decision.

Find out more here


Have a question about DRS in Scotland?

Send us an email and the political engagement team will endeavour to answer it as quickly as possible.   Please remember, though, most of the detail of the operation of the scheme has yet to be agreed, so no further information will be available.

Latest Updates:

DRS Payments Announced

Deposit return scheme operator, Circularity Scotland Limited, has announced the payment that retailers will receive (the retail handling fee) for each...

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