Deposit & Return Scheme
Will your business be affected by Deposit & Return System requirements? Are you prepared? We can help you implement or operate a successful system
To improve the quantity and quality of recycling, many countries are introducing a Deposit Return System (DRS). This means consumers pay a slightly increased cost, which works like a deposit, when buying certain products. Once the packaging is empty, they return the item to a designated point for recycling in exchange for their money back or vouchers.
The introduction of Deposit & Return Schemes for drinks containers in the UK should help to prevent littering of these items. Disposable drinks containers (or parts of them) are among the items most commonly found on UK beaches, in hedges, parks, verges, sewers, and other waterways.
Deposit & Return Scheme benefits
It is hoped the introduction of Deposit & Return Schemes (DRS) across the globe will help to:
- Reduce ocean pollution – littering of single-use items significantly contributes to this issue
- Support businesses to implement more circular processes and meet sustainability goals
- Increase uplift and recycling of plastic, glass (in some instances) and aluminium containers
- Meet consumer demands and legislative pressures to increase recycling and minimise litter
The government’s current position is that Deposit & Return Schemes (DRS) for drinks containers will be implemented in UK nations and rolled out from October 2025.
How Valpak can help
We can provide support with the entire DRS process from set-up to support managing your operation. Our services include:
- Consulting and DRS system design – providing guidance during the initial phase of your Deposit Return Scheme
- IT infrastructure – developing and managing IT platforms which includes building a connected portal and gathering data
- Collection and logistics – providing necessary hardware such as *reverse vending machines (RVMs), hand-held scanners, mobile apps, and e-bins. Handling collection, transportation, consolidation, and recycling
- Operation – ensuring smooth operation through streamlined processes and technical support.
- Financial clearing – protecting against fraud and maintaining the security of your DRS
- Insights – creating fully customised and detailed reports, providing key insights to guide decision-making
* EcoVend is Reconomy Group’s range of reverse vending machines that can fulfil a variety of applications as part of a circular economy strategy and national Deposit Return Schemes.
A Deposit & Return Scheme (DRS), also known as a deposit refund system, applies a surcharge to a product when it is purchased. A rebate is given to the consumer if that product is returned. In this instance, a refund will be given when a reusable drinks container is returned for recycling.
When the DRS for Scotland was previously intended to be introduced in 2024, a 20p deposit was going to be charged to consumers. These deposits were to be refunded at any return point regardless of the point of purchase.
It is hoped that the introduction of a DRS will help to reduce littering by offering consumers a financial incentive to recycle drinks containers at a specified location for recycling. It is hoped deposit return systems can help raise the recycling of single-use drinks containers in the UK to rates in excess of 90%, as seen in European nations where they are well established.
These systems are designed to encourage behaviour change to stop littering at source and capture valuable resources.
The Deposit & Return Schemes in Scotland, and in the rest of the UK, will affect:
- UK-based beverage brand owners
- Importers of beverage containers owned by a non-UK brand
- Retailers of single-use beverage containers
If your business falls into one or more of the above categories it will be required to participate in the DRS. This will require producers of in-scope containers to report the number of containers they supply to the market and pay producer fees to cover the costs of setting up and operating the DRS. Retailers may need to operate a return point where they accept containers from consumers and reimburse the deposits, the costs of which will be covered by a handling fee and deposit values paid to them by the body charged with operating the scheme.
Obligated producers will need to register with the relevant authority, regularly submit data to that authority, apply a deposit to beverage containers when they are sold to distributors, and pay producer fees to help support the functioning of the DRS system.
Retailers that sell beverages will likely have to host a DRS return point to collect used containers from consumers. They will be required to charge the consumer the deposit value when they sell drinks, inform them of how the deposit can be redeemed and refund deposits to consumers when they present valid containers for recycling.
Two examples of return methods are the installation of an automated reverse vending machine (RVM) (a machine that accepts the beverage container and returns the deposit to the customer) or manual collections, for example over the counter. The retailer can decide which type of return location they provide.
Retailers would receive a handling fee from the DRS administrator for each valid container collected. This fee is intended to cover the costs of hosting a return point e.g. for space lost, staff resource costs, etc.
It is important to note that retailers, including online retailers, which are also brand owners will be obligated as producers for their own-brand products.
Make an Enquiry
To find out more about how we can help your business to prepare for the introduction of a Deposit Return System, come to one of our free events, contact one of our experts on 03450 682 572 or complete our enquiry form.