Publication - Consultation paper

Deposit return scheme for Scotland: summary

Summary of the Deposit Return Scheme for Scotland consultation paper.

Deposit return scheme for Scotland: summary
What infrastructure to put in place, and the logistics involved? (Questions 27 to 29)

What infrastructure to put in place, and the logistics involved? (Questions 27 to 29)

This refers to the vital physical components required for a deposit return scheme to function. There are three areas within infrastructure and logistics – the method by which people can return their bottles and other containers ( i.e. a RVM or manual, over the counter take back), counting and bulking, and transport and sorting of returned containers.

Method of Take back

Take back is usually done in one of two ways:

1. Reverse Vending Machines ( RVMs) – This is sometimes referred to as automated return. Returned containers would be placed in a machine, which then scans the barcode. If a deposit was paid on an item, the machine would accept it and return it to the customer. RVMs can be scaled and can be used in any return setting.

2. Manual/over the counter take back – It is likely that this would primarily be done in smaller retailers and involve customers handing over returned items to a shop attendant to have the deposit returned. The impact on small retailers will vary depending on the scope of the scheme and the size and layout of the store.

There will also be a need to provide some form of take back from online shopping. This will likely require some form of take back at the same time as deliveries are made.

It is intended that the retailer will receive a handling fee per container to support the costs they incur in participating in the scheme. This could be a flat rate calculated on the likely average cost for retailers or could be more flexible to take into account the different retail environments.

Counting, Sorting and Bulking Centres

At least one large scale counting centre will be required by the system. This centre will be responsible for ensuring that material that has been collected is eligible to have a deposit paid on it, and reimburse retailers for deposits they have paid out manually.

Bulking centres may also be required to reduce logistic costs for transport by grouping material together. Bulking sites will also combine material that has been taken back manually and been through a counting centre with material from RVMs for forward shipment.

As well as being important to the functioning of the system, counting, sorting and bulking centres will provide entry level employment in the areas where they are established, estimated at 12 to 116 jobs depending on the scope of the system.


This refers to the process of collecting material from return locations and moving it to the counting or bulking centres. There are broadly three options:

1. In-house – If the material collected belongs to the system administrator, it could be responsible for directly collecting the material from return locations.

2. Contracted – The system administrator could instead chose to contract the collection of material from return points. This could involve a single contract or a number of local contractors moving the material.

3. Backhauling – This could work in conjunction with the above options. This would use the existing retail delivery infrastructure – lorries delivering goods to shops would take away returned material, or in the case of online shopping vehicles making deliveries could be expected to bring back containers.

As with the counting and bulking centres, the logistics element could generate new employment opportunities, particularly under Options 1 and 2.

Effective infrastructure could be supported by some form of compaction at point of return. Evidence from other countries indicated that compacted material takes half the space of uncompacted material, which has an environmental and cost benefit for transport and would reduce storage space required by retailers.