Changes to deposit return scheme

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Small businesses to benefit.

Craft drinks producers and pubs that provide off-sales are among those that will benefit from changes to Scotland’s deposit return scheme.

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater has announced a range of measures to make it easier for drinks producers and retailers to prepare for the scheme, while making sure environmental benefits are still delivered, and repeated the call on the UK Government to issue an exclusion for the scheme from the Internal Market Act.

The changes announced are:

  • Drinks containers of under 100ml will be excluded, removing miniatures and other smaller containers from the scheme.
  • Products that sell fewer than 5,000 units per year will be excluded, which will particularly benefit craft producers
  • All hospitality premises that sell the large majority of their drinks products for consumption on the premises will be exempt from acting as a return point
  • The online application process for retailers to apply for an exemption from providing a return point has been simplified

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said:

“Scotland’s deposit return scheme will reduce litter on our streets, massively increase the recycling of drinks containers and help meet our net zero ambitions.

“However, to realise these benefits DRS needs to be delivered in a way that works for businesses, especially for small drinks producers. The changes I have set out will make the scheme easier for industry to deliver – especially for craft producers – while still making sure the vast majority of drinks containers are captured for recycling.

“To move forward with certainty, the UK Government must stop delaying the long overdue exclusion from the Internal Market Act. This damaging Act was imposed on the Scottish Parliament after Brexit without its consent and creates confusion and uncertainty for businesses.

“After that Act was passed, we engaged in good faith, following the agreed process, and have done so for nearly two years now to agree an exclusion. The UK Government needs to at long last issue an exclusion, and recognise the right of the Scottish Parliament to enact legislation in devolved areas without interference.”


Changes to Scotland’s deposit return scheme are subject to approval of the Scottish Parliament.

The current deposit return scheme regulations include all drinks from 50ml to 3 litres and place no lower limit on the volume of sales to qualify for the scheme.

Introducing a threshold of 5,000 units per year will remove many craft drinks and limited edition products. It is anticipated that this change will only remove around 0.5% of articles from the scheme but will remove the need for around 44% of businesses to apply a deposit to their products.

The Scottish Government will engage with hospitality businesses on the proportion of sales at which the hospitality measures will apply, to ensure a balance between support for businesses and accessibility for consumers.

Drinks producers will have until 12 January 2024 to register for the scheme.

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