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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 to go live with a Deposit Return Scheme due to be implemented in 2022* with England, Northern Ireland and Wales awaiting feedback from recent consultations at present with a view that the scheme will go live in 2024. Further information on England, Northern Ireland is expected after the 2021 consultations.

*the latest Scottish government update indicated a possible delay with the go live date and an update in due course

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.

  • 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(which is still to be confirmed

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

For further information please do not hesitate to contact your Biffa contact or email Carla.Brian@Biffa.co.uk

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. 

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To speak to us regarding Deposit Return Schemes please email carla.brian@biffa.co.uk

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