Scotland’s deposit return scheme

Recycling scheme will go live in 2023.

The UK’s first deposit return scheme will go live across Scotland on 16 August 2023, helping to recycle billions of bottles and cans every year.

The announcement follows an independent review, which considered the impact of COVID-19 on the scheme.

Addressing parliament, the Circular Economy Minister set out plans for a phased implementation of the scheme, and said the target of achieving 90% collection rates by 2024 will be maintained.

As part of the phased implementation, the Scottish Government is working with retailers on a voluntary basis to enable people to start returning their bottles and cans for recycling from November 2022.

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said:

"This will be the first scheme of its kind in the UK and one of the most environmentally ambitious and accessible in Europe.

“Implementing a scheme on this scale is a massive national undertaking involving tens of thousands of producers and retailers. Given the challenges that the pandemic and Brexit have placed upon these businesses, it is disappointing - but understandable - that the independent review concluded the original start date was no longer feasible.

“Despite calls to water down the scheme by removing materials or waiting for other nations to catch up, we have maintained our ambition and ensured that the scheme will still meet its original target of achieving 90% collection rates by 2024.

“We have also published a clear plan for delivery, with critical milestones on the path to full implementation. These include use of return points on a voluntary basis by retailers from November 2022.

“I am also delighted that Orkney will go early in offering a return scheme, which will provide benefits to the local community and recycling.”

Councillor Graham Sinclair, Chair of Orkney Council's Development and Infrastructure Committee, said:

“Orkney Islands Council is committed to working with both local and national organisations to improve recycling rates and to ensure that materials are kept in use for as long as possible.  We welcome this initiative on the return of drinks containers in Orkney and are supportive of the aims and objectives. 

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government, Circularity Scotland and Zero Waste Scotland to ensure that this initiative brings benefit to local community groups and increases opportunities for recycling drinks containers across all of Orkney.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland said:

“Zero Waste Scotland is proud to have advised on the design of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme, a gamechanger with multiple benefits including reduced carbon emissions, more and better recycling, and the removal of up to one third of the litter from our streets.

“Despite the uncertainty wrought by the pandemic I’m delighted we now have a go-live date for this important scheme, which Zero Waste Scotland will continue to support.

“We are excited to be working with Orkney Islands Council, Circularity Scotland and the Scottish Government on an initiative on the islands of Orkney from next year.” 


People will pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink that comes in a single-use container made of PET plastic, steel and aluminium, or glass. They will get their money back when they return the empty container to one of tens of thousands of return points.

Regulations asking Parliament to approve the change in go-live date will be laid on Wednesday 15 December.

The Minister said the legal requirement to collect at least 90% of eligible containers will now have to be met in the second year of operation, not the third. This means that the scheme will still be expected to meet its original target of achieving 90% collection rates by 2024.

Key milestones for delivery of the scheme include:

  • by March 2022, Circularity Scotland will have signed contracts with partners to deliver its logistics, operations and IT systems
  • by August 2022, the public awareness campaign will be launched and counting and sorting centres will start to be built
  • retailers will start rolling out the return infrastructure in earnest from next summer and we are working with them to start using that infrastructure on a voluntary basis from November 2022.
  • Orkney will see a community-run return scheme operating in November 2022.
  • in January 2023, Circularity Scotland and SEPA will begin the process to register producers
  • in July 2023, there will be end-to-end testing of containers through the system.


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