Deposit Return Schemes in the UK - What you need to Know.
Is one coming to the UK? When? And what will it involve?

A Quick Introduction to DRS:

A Deposit Return Scheme in simple terms is a scheme by which a deposit (currently 20p) is paid at the point of purchase, in this case on a drink or similar. This is then then returned (by the vendor) at the point the empty container is returned. By volume, drinks containers account for 75% of the litter found on UK streets and, although many of these items are fully recyclable, recent recycling rates show there is much more to be done (For example the current government target is to recycle 77% of single-use plastic bottles by 2025, and 90% by 2029).

Deposit return schemes are already established in many countries where they are helping to tackle climate change and reduce litter. DRS aims to tackle throwaway culture and help protect the environment for generations to come. 

A simple diagram of how a scheme works:

The above diagram shows common vendors, shops, restaurants and takeaways. In reality any business that sells beverages could be affected, from newspaper stands to supermarkets.

Materials included in these schemes are those such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE), aluminium, steel and glass.  Those included at the beginning of a scheme may be reviewed, altered and added to at a later date.

The drinks that are subject to DRS legislation include all soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, milk and plant-based drinks.

 So are we getting one? And When?

The answer is yes, but it's not as simple as that. Though a blanket Deposit Return Scheme would be the ideal solution, Scotland is to implement its scheme first (on 16th August 2023) followed by England, Wales and Northern Ireland in late 2024. Keep an eye on our website for the latest details.

The Scottish Government approved Circularity Scotland Ltd as its scheme administrator in March 2021, and it will manage the logistics of the deposit return scheme and its implementation.

How will Reverse Vending Support DRS?

Given that the deposit returns schemes come into force as planned across the UK, this will place extra burden on vendors who will need to collect these containers and return the deposits. DRS brings complexity and difficulty not just in the space required to collect these containers, but also in accounting for the returns and numerous other issues. This will of course impact smaller vendors the most with space constraints and less automated accounting solutions.

Recyclever are a UK based manufacture of Reverse Vending Machines. These are designed from the outset to reduce the burden of collection and accounting for retailers. They provide a point of return for customers, automating the collection, storage and sorting of containers. They allow multiple containers to be returned at once, stop fraud (for example a container being scanned multiple times) and allow the deposit to be returned in multiple ways, either digitally or via voucher (that could of course be redeemed at the counter for cash).  Read more about our models here. Or get in touch here to see how we can help your business.

Further Reading:

Read more about Scottish DRS on Zero Waste Scotland's Site here.


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