New Deposit and Return Scheme in Scotland!

Environment, Legislation Update

Hey, did you know Scotland is doing a deposit on drinks containers?


All drinks?

Well almost, from 50ml (those miniatures) up to 3 litres made from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate ) glass, steel and aluminium.

It does not include milk bottles, yogurt drinks and some opaque juice bottles which are mostly made out of high density Polyethylene (HDPE).

In the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020, the relevant drinks which are covered by the Regulations are called “scheme articles”, and the empty cans and bottles which can be returned for a refund of the deposit are called “scheme packaging”.

Deposit and Return Scheme

When does it come in?

It starts on July 2022.

This gives producers some time to get ready and hopefully the COVID pandemic will be over by then.


What do producers have to do?

Producers will have to register every year with SEPA (the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency). Products made outside Scotland for retail sale in Scotland will have to be registered by the importer.  Producers can choose to have a scheme administrator register on their behalf, similar to the system for WEEE returns.

The registration application must include an operational plan which sets out how the producer plans to meet the obligations set out in regulation 11. These obligations include:

  1. Keeping records of the number of relevant drinks sold in Scotland, the material the drinks container was made of, the number of containers returned, the number of drinks containers collected from each return point, takeback service and hospitality retailer;
  2. Providing any requested information to SEPA;
  3. Accepting the return of drinks containers from retailers or wholesalers;
  4. Collecting drinks containers from return points, retailer takeback schemes, hotels and pubs;
  5. Refunding all deposits for containers; and
  6. Meeting the collection targets for containers, rising from 70% in year 1 to 90% in year 3.


What do retailers have to do?

Retailers must:

  1. Ensure that they do not sell drinks which are not produced for sale in Scotland.
  2. Ensure that the producer of the drinks they sell is registered with SEPA
  3. Charge a deposit of 20p
  4. Display information explaining that a 20p deposit will be charged and that the empty container can be returned for a refund
  5. Operate a return point.


What about the drinks that were in stock before these Regulations came into force? Do I charge a deposit for those?

Nope. Retailers selling drinks that were placed on the market before the Regulations came into force can be sold without the deposit but the retailer must explain that no deposit was charged and that it cannot be returned for a refund of the deposit.


Any exemptions?

Sure. In Scotland you do not have to charge a deposit if the container will not leave the premises for example in a pub or hotel or other hospitality venues where drinks are consumed on the premises.

Duty free shops and drinks produced for export are also exempted.


Return Point? What does that involve?

Operating a return point means that you must

  • accept empty bottles and cans
  • refund the 20p deposit
  • store the empties for collection
  • display information about complaints procedure
  • display contact details of operator for making a complaint and SEPA


Can I refuse to accept returned bottles and cans?

You can refuse to accept returned cans and bottles if they are:

  • not identifiable as a can/bottle for which a deposit was paid
  • dirty
  • broken
  • not empty

You can refuse to accept a returned can or bottle if the empties collection has not taken place as planned and your storage is full.

You can also refuse to accept returns where there are so many returns, far more than what you would ordinarily sell as part of a single transaction.


Do all retailers have to operate a return point

Pretty much. All retailers must operate a return point, but retailers can apply to the Scottish Ministers for an exemption. Scottish Ministers will only grant an exemption in cases where either

  • there is an alternative return point nearby which will accept returns and consumers will still have reasonable access to a return point, and the exemption will not significantly impair the ability of a producer to meet their collection targets; or
  • the location, layout, design, or construction of the retail premises does not permit, or cannot be reasonably altered to permit, the operation of a return point on the premises without significant risk of the retailer being in breach of a legal obligation relating to any of the following:

(i) food safety,

(ii)health and safety,

(iii)fire safety,

(iv)environmental protection, or

(v)public health.

Retailers who get an exemption must notify the Scottish Ministers if there is a material change in the circumstances or information upon which the exemption was granted.


What is a takeback service?

If you get your groceries delivered, the retailer must collect your empty bottles and cans. They can charge a collection fee, but this must be refunded in addition to the deposit. Online retailers (distance sellers) must also offer a takeback service free of charge.


Anything else I should know?

Scheme administrators can be set up and they take over the producer responsibilities in relation to operating the plan to get collection rates up to the targets. They require approval from Scottish Ministers.

Additional voluntary return points can also be set up in addition to retailer return points.

There are some appeal mechanisms for producers appealing in relation to registration decisions and scheme administrators appealing in relation to approvals.


Anything to avoid people trying to game the system?

Retailers can refuse to accept unusually large returns.

Environmental Law UK , Environmental Legislation , legislation update , SEPA
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