Deposit return scheme for Scotland: SEA

This strategic environmental assessment (SEA) post adoption statement details the environmental considerations that have gone into the design of the deposit return scheme for Scotland.

2. How environmental considerations have been integrated into the DRS

2.1 Environmental considerations in the DRS

2.1.1 The design, development and implementation of DRS has been led by environmental considerations, reflecting key Scottish Government commitments and ambitions:

  • To contribute to meeting the recycling target of ensuring 70% of all waste is recycled by 2025, as set out in the Zero Waste Plan[7].  The target forms part of a wider strategy to make the most of resources and to reduce, reuse and recycle more materials in Scotland.
  • To embed circular economy principles into the design of packaging materials for reuse, recycling and recovery in partnership with packaging industries, as part of the transformation led by the Scottish Government’s Making Things Last – A Circular Economy Strategy[8] and the Safeguarding Scotland's Resources: Blueprint for a more Resource Efficient and Circular Economy (SSR)[9].
  • To enable the public to adopt alternative behaviours to waste management, through access to improved recycling opportunities, awareness campaigns and targeted efforts to tackle littering in both terrestrial and marine environments (consistent with the Scottish Government’s Towards a Litter Free Scotland:
    A strategic Approach to Higher Quality Local Environments[10]
    and its A Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland[11]).

2.1.2 The work has been guided by four investment objectives that a DRS should: 

  • increase the quantity of target materials captured for recycling;
  • improve the quality of material captured, to allow for higher value recycling;
  • encourage wider behaviour change in the use of materials;
  • deliver maximum economic and societal benefit for Scotland.

2.1.3 In terms of increasing the quantity and quality of materials, the introduction of a DRS offers the chance to embed a step change in recycling performance.  DRS in Europe are achieving capture rates[12] of up to 95% for best performing target materials compared with around 60% in Scotland.  The preferred option has been modelled to achieve a capture rate of 90% for the target materials.

2.1.4 Drinks containers form a highly visible part of the litter stream and by attaching a value to these items, in the form of a deposit, the Scottish Government aim to encourage people who may not dispose of their cans and bottles correctly to return them for recycling.  Where DRS have been implemented in other countries, and where data is available, DRS has been identified as making an effective contribution to the reduction in littering[13, 14].  In light of these studies and subsequent modelling, the operation of all the example schemes in Scotland have been identified as having a substantial effect on litter reduction, with the fall in littered target items expected to match the scheme capture rate.

2.1.5 The operation of DRS will divert material to recycling from disposal by landfill and incineration and will have associated carbon emission savings. The preferred option will save an estimated 4,038 ktCO2eq between 2021 and 2046[15] and therefore represents an optimum environmental outcome taking account of technical practicalities in establishing and operating a successful scheme.

2.2 Environmental considerations through the SEA 

2.2.1 The SEA has played an integral role in highlighting the environmental factors to be considered in the development of the DRS.  

2.2.2 Initially, the 12 topics[16] covered by Schedule 3 (6) of the 2005 Act were reviewed, with relevant topics scoped into the assessment (subject to the outcome of scoping consultation).  Table 2.1 details the topics included in the SEA (and the reasoning).

Table 2.1: SEA topics scoped into the SEA

SEA Topic


Material Assets

The key components and objectives of the DRS are aimed primarily at improving recovery and recycling of selected single-use drink containers in preference to the use of virgin materials.  In consequence, material assets which was scoped into this SEA.

Climatic Factors

The recovery and recycling of collected materials in preference to the use of virgin materials will have significant effects on the embodied carbon associated with the lifecycle of the single-use containers.  In consequence, climatic factors were scoped into the SEA.

Landscape and visual impacts

The key components and objectives of the DRS are aimed primarily at improving recycling quality and quantity for select single-use drink containers and reducing litter of those materials in both terrestrial and marine environments.  In consequence, landscape and visual impacts were scoped into the SEA.

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

The key components and objectives of the DRS are aimed primarily at improving recycling quality and quantity for select single-use drink containers and reducing litter of those materials in both terrestrial and marine environments.  In consequence, given the potential effects on terrestrial and marine ecosystems, statutory consultees requested that this topic be scoped into the SEA.

2.2.3 Consistent with the requirements of Schedule 3 (1) and (5) of the 2005 Act, the SEA identified and reviewed other relevant Plans, Programmes and Strategies (PPS) which could influence the development and objectives of the DRS.  These included PPS at an international/European, national, regional or local level, commensurate with the scope of the DRS.  The review identified the relationships between the DRS and these other documents i.e. how the DRS could be affected by the other plans’ and programmes’ aims, objectives and/or targets, or how it could contribute to the achievement of their environmental and sustainability objectives.

2.2.4 For each SEA topic, baseline information was also provided for current actors which could be impacted by introduction of the DRS.  The baseline provided information against which key metrics for the DRS (such as tonnes of material recycled and carbon emissions) were assessed to determine the impact of the DRS throughout its operation. The evolution of this baseline was taken to be the Business as Usual (BAU) option. Each example DRS was assessed against this BAU baseline to determine the impact, positive or negative, that each example scheme could deliver.

2.2.5 An assessment of each example scheme was undertaken in relation to the four SEA topics: material assets, climatic factors, landscape and visual impacts and biodiversity.  The assessment adopted a two-tier approach. The primary tier explored the potential for significant, primary environmental effects within the SEA scoped in topic. The secondary tier explored the indirect or secondary effects associated with the adoption of the DRS. The activities associated with each example scheme were examined to identify, describe and evaluate (where possible) the likely significant effects that could arise drawing on the following to inform the assessment:

  • consultation with statutory consultees and other stakeholders;
  • the contextual information including a review of PPS, the regulatory framework and baseline;
  • the nature of the potential effect (what is expected to happen);
  • the timing and duration of the potential effect (e.g. short, medium or long term);
  • the geographic scale of the potential effect (e.g. local, regional, national);
  • the location of the potential effect (e.g. rural or urban communities);
  • the potential effect on vulnerable communities or sensitive habitats;
  • the reasons for whether the effect is considered significant;
  • the reasons for any uncertainty, where this is identified; and
  • the potential to avoid, minimise, reduce, mitigate or compensate for the identified effect(s) with evidence (where available).



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