A Deposit Return Scheme in the UK: What You Need to Know… So Far

Written By Recyclever
March 6, 2020 2:35 PM

Scotland is set to implement its Deposit Return Scheme for April 2021, meaning that Scottish consumers’ drinks purchases will be subject to a 20p deposit payable at time of purchase. This will then be returned to them upon the return of their empty beverage container. 

In the rest of the UK, there is a little more lead time, with Westminster proposing an introduction of the scheme in 2023.

In 2019, the UK Government department DEFRA opened three consultations for which it received 1180 responses, with a staggering 207,089 further comments on the campaign as a whole.

What Does a Deposit Return Scheme Involve?

A Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland follows similar principles to the Scottish legislation, although the exact detail is to be decided following the next round of consultations, due to take place in early 2020.

The Deposit Return Scheme will form part of the Environmental Bill and honours the EU target of collecting 77% of single use bottles by 2023. It is proposed that UK retailers will therefore impose a deposit on top of the price of glass bottles, plastic bottles and cans. Consumers can then retrieve this after having returned the container to a designated return point. The aims of the DRS include cutting down on litter and enabling more opportunities for recycling.

What is included in the Deposit Return Scheme? 

Suggested materials to be included in the scheme are polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE), aluminium, steel and glass. Although many of those who participated in the consultation including environmental charities would like to see more materials included. 

The drinks that will be subject to DRS legislation are all soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, milk and plant-based drinks. It’s possible that returnable containers may be as large as 3L if the Government opts for an “all-in” strategy that covers all beverages consumed at home or otherwise, or decides only to cover “on-the-go” beverages that you consume while out and about. 

How will the Deposit Return Scheme Work? 

Concerns have been raised about people who may struggle to redeem their deposit, for example people with mobility issues or who live out the way of retail stores and commercial districts. Therefore, it has been suggested that return points cover other places people frequent, such as community centres, or that that containers can be returned via shopping delivery services.

DEFRA is carrying out an impact assessment to ascertain whether the DRS scheme could inadvertently cause environmental harm in unexpected ways, e.g. through people using their car specially to return empty bottles.

Manufacturers and importers will be subject to a “producer fee” and it is believed they will cover the net cost of the setup and the operation of the Deposit Return Scheme.

The scheme will be implemented and overseen by an independent body, or “Deposit Management Organisation” who will put in place reverse vending machines and collection points and ensure the materials reach the recycling treatment centres. Other responsibilities include devising marketing and communications to the general public and reporting to the Government.

The Deposit Return Scheme is coming. Soon, we believe that reverse vending machines will be as commonplace as regular vending machines in public places. Recyclever is the only RVM to be manufactured here in the UK and promises a wealth of opportunities for the retailer. Do you want to be one of the first? Get in touch with our friendly team today.


About the Author

Recyclever is a developer of cutting edge reverse vending solutions.