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Female employee inserting plastic bottle into reverse vending machine

Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)

What is a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)?

Deposit return schemes are used across the world as a way of encouraging more people to recycle drinks containers, such as bottles and cans. They work by charging anyone who buys a drink a small deposit for the bottle or can that it comes in. Consumers can then get this money back when they return the bottle or can to a collection point to be recycled. Anyone who retails the materials confirmed in the scheme may have to act as a return point.

What are the main objectives of DRS?

By creating a deposit return scheme, UK Governments want to increase the recycling rate of drinks containers and reduce littering. Introducing such a scheme will help change consumer behaviour to encourage higher levels of drinks container recycling.

When is DRS due to start in the UK? 

Scotland will be the first of the UKs nations to go live with a Deposit Return Scheme which starts on the 16th August 2023. We are currently awaiting feedback from recent government consultation for England , Wales and NI which we anticipate a start date of late 2024. 

Biffa vending machine for deposit return scheme

What does this mean for my business? 

We understand this is a real challenge for our customers who operate a national estate in dealing with legislation changes implemented in one country of the UK before another.  Scotland have confirmed that PET bottles, Steel and Aluminium cans and Glass drinks bottles will be included, and deposits will apply for drinks containers from 50ml to 3 litres. They have also opted for a flat 20p deposit for each container. England, NI and Wales are yet to define their scheme.

However following the recent EPR consultation release it is defined that glass will fall under EPR not DRS in England and Northern Ireland and that Glass will fall into DRS in Wales. All countries are also opting for an all in scheme (50ml - 3 litre)

  • Online Retailer

  • Hospitality Retailer

  • Large Retailer

  • Small Retailer

What does this mean for Local Authorities?

For local authorities, the volume of drink containers will potentially impact on the volume of recycling collected at the kerbside. However, it is yet unknown if those DRS cans and plastic bottles that end up in household waste can be redeemed by the local authority.

What do I need to consider?

Materials which are part of the scheme belong to the scheme administrator and a separate collection system will be implemented for these materials by the Scheme Administrator. These will be collected by a preferred logistics partner from your site, should you be obligated to operate a return point. 

How will it operate in Scotland? 

For our customers who sell in scope materials (Scotland only) this means:

  • You will pay the deposit on stock falling in scope from suppliers when you purchase drinks containers made of PET, Steel and Aluminium and Glass
  • Charge the deposit when selling in-scope products
  • Display the deposit value separately from the product price
  • Clearly display information about how to redeem the deposit in-store
  • You will have to act as a return point either via a manual return or use of a Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) (unless exemption is approved*) When operating as a return point you will receive a handling fee from the scheme administrator**

*Exemptions are now open for Scotland: Full details can be found here

**All handling fees below are for Scotland only and applicable to businesses operating as a return point for the scheme.

  • Manual Takeback handling fee – 2.69 pence
  • Reverse Vending Machine handling fee – 3.55 pence (up to 8,000 units per week) 1.35 pence thereafter
  • Closed Loop Hospitality 0.13 pence
  • Online Takeback – to be determined

For further information please do not hesitate to contact your Biffa contact or email

Biffa Insights Webinar

Biffa hosted an online webinar in November 2020 as part of our Biffa Insights Series discussing the implementation of the Deposit Return Scheme. The event had a number of industry speakers discussing potential considerations and impacts of the scheme on your businesses. To view the webinar click here

Biffa Polymers

Operating two of the most technically advanced plastic reprocessing facilities in the world in Redcar and Seaham, Biffa Polymers is able to deliver world class solutions by converting waste plastics into high value raw materials.

We understand for customers the Resources and Waste strategy is a challenge when thinking what this means for your business and how this will impact you. Biffa can help support you with our team of commercial specialists can advise you through legislation, options for your business and guide you through consultations and implementation process. 


To speak to us regarding Deposit Return Schemes please email

Get in touch

Help us help you by taking our survey. Click here or scan the QR code below to launch. 

DRS survey QR code

Biffa partners with Ribena to improve design of the classic 500ml bottle to make it more sustainable

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Did you know Biffa Polymers...

0 1.3bn

Bottles recycled per annum at Biffa Polymers

0 £27.5m


0 57000

Tonnes input per annum at Biffa Polymers

0 96

Full time employees

Reverse Vending Machine leaflet

Download our quick information guide to share with your contacts.

Download Leaflet