Deposit Return Schemes

To encourage behaviour change to stop littering at source and capture valuable resources

The introduction of Deposit Return Schemes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should help to prevent littering of drinks containers. Disposable containers (or parts of them) are among the items most commonly found on UK beaches, in hedges, parks, verges, sewers and other waterways. 


What is a Deposit Return Scheme?

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.

It is hoped that the introduction of a DRS will help to reduce littering  by offering a financial incentive to recycle drinks containers at a specified location for recycling.


Who is affected?

A Deposit Return Scheme will affect:

  • beverage container brand owners
  • beverage container fillers
  • beverage container importers
  • retailers of 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 involve paying a producer fee to cover the costs of setting up and operating the DRS (excluding any material revenues and unredeemed deposits).

DRS requirements


Obligated businesses will be required to apply a deposit to beverage containers when they are sold to distributors.


Retailers that sell beverages will 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 and return this when the container is returned.

Two examples of return locations are the installation of an automated reverse vending machine (RVM) (a machine which 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 operator (the Deposit Management Organisation) to cover 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.

Enquiry form

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.




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Other legislation that could affect you

The introduction of Deposit Return Schemes is only one aspect of legislation proposed under the packaging reform. Visit our Plastic Packaging Tax and Extended Producer Responsibility pages for further information.


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