What is Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme?

07 APR 20 | 4 minute read

Remember that magic moment in childhood, when you strayed into the long grass after a ball, only to find guaranteed sweet shop cash lying in the bushes in the form of a deposit bottle of IRN BRU?

Just a quick trot down to the shop and it was ice pops all round. Well, guess what? Those halcyon days are coming back again in the form of a national deposit return scheme for Scotland...

What is Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme?

How many times have you spotted an empty can abandoned in the street? Had a raft of plastic bottles spoil your enjoyment of your local park? Or changed your dog walking route because of a pile of smashed glass?

This type of litter is messy, ugly and can even be a hazard, never mind the contributions such throw-away items add to the current climate crisis, but what can we do about it?

Well, Scotland may have an answer and it comes in the form of the UK’s first deposit return scheme. 

Put simply, Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme will give everyone a 20p incentive not to throw away empty containers. Bring your drinks container back, get your 20p back. Easy.

It's estimated that this will help clear as many as 9 out of 10 of the littered bottles and cans from our streets and parks. That’s 34,000 fewer plastic bottles littered in Scotland every day! Result? A cleaner place for us all to live and work. 

Combating the climate emergency

Scotland recently declared a climate emergency which, let’s be honest, sounds kind of scary! As an individual, it can be overwhelming and hard to know what to do. Deposit return can make a difference here too, helping us all to do our bit to cut Scotland’s emissions.

Each time a single-use container is recycled, we’re using fewer new resources and less energy than if we were creating brand new packaging from scratch. By taking back your empties, you won’t just get your 20p deposit back, you will be helping to fight the climate emergency.   

It’s a great way to help everyone get involved and it’s a popular choice too. In fact, when we asked people in Scotland what would motivate them to return their empty drinks containers, 72% said they wanted to help the environment.

Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme will reduce emissions by an average of nearly 160,000 tonnes of CO2eq a year - the equivalent of 109,000 return flights from Edinburgh to New York. 

The Facts

  1. From Summer 2022, you will pay a small deposit of 20p when you buy a single-use drinks container. Just like the pound you pop into the trolley for the weekly shop, you get the deposit back when you return the empty bottle or can to any return point in Scotland

  2. PET plastic bottles, steel and aluminum cans, and glass bottles are included in the scheme. All containers of at least 50ml and up to 3 litres in size are included

  3. Even if you shop online the delivery van can take your empties away and refund your deposit, making recycling your containers hassle-free

  4. There will be more than 17,000 return points right across Scotland, so it will be as easy to return a drinks container as it was to buy it

A cleaner Scotland

As well as being an eyesore in our environment, litter and broken glass are real hazards to people and wildlife in Scotland. Deposit return will also help tackle this.

Also, by including glass bottles in the scheme, an extra 53,000 tonnes of glass will be recycled every year. All that glass can be used to make new bottles, including for Scotland’s whisky and beer producers. 

From Sweden to Saskatchewan, there are deposit return schemes already running in countries and territories around the world, helping to reduce the amount of litter that is dumped every day. In Norway, the scheme has been running since 1999 and has an impressive collection rate of more than 90%!

There is no reason Scotland can’t do the same, tackling not only litter but the climate emergency too.

More than 70% of people in Scotland support the introduction of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.   

Want to know more?

Want to know more? Follow our channels, check out our deposit return scheme website or search the hashtag #DepositReturn for the latest progress on the scheme. 

Information for businesses

If you are a retailer, producer, hospitality business or any other business affected, you can find dedicated resources on our stakeholder website