15 May 2023

There has been widespread welcome for the news that the launch date of Scotland's new deposit return scheme has been delayed until 1 March 2024, along with a series of changes to how it will operate.

What is the deposit return scheme?


Scotland's new deposit return scheme (DRS) is an ambitious initiative to reduce waste and increase recycling rates in the country. Under this scheme, customers will be required to pay a small deposit when they purchase certain drinks in containers such as bottles and cans, which they will then get back when they return the empty container for recycling.


In this blog, we will take you through what this means for Scotland's hospitality industry - and how we're helping to support our customers through the transition. If you have any questions, please get in touch with your Dunns Food and Drinks rep today.


When does the scheme start?


The latest announcements mean that the DRS is now due to roll out in March 2024, giving more time for your business to prepare for the changes it will involve fully. Dunns has been around long enough to see many changes to Scottish legislation. We have plenty of advice and solutions to help with any challenges you may be facing.


What are the latest announcements?

It has been announced that:


What containers are included in the deposit return scheme?


The DRS scheme will cover a wide range of drinks, including beer, cider, and soft drinks, and will now apply to all containers between 100ml and 3 litres in size. The deposit amount will be 20p per container, which can add up to a significant sum.


What are the benefits of the deposit return scheme?


One of the main benefits of the DRS is that it is expected to boost recycling rates and reduce littering.


It is estimated that around 64% of plastic bottles in the UK are not recycled, and many end up in landfill or the environment. By incentivising people to return their empty bottles and cans, the scheme will help to reduce this waste and ensure that more materials are recycled and reused.


In addition to environmental benefits, it's proposed that the scheme will also create new job opportunities and support local businesses. Collection points for the returned containers will be set up across the country and run by independent operators, which could help create hundreds of new jobs.


The scheme may also help to support Scottish businesses that manufacture and sell drinks, as it will encourage people to buy products in reusable containers rather than single-use plastic bottles.


What are the downsides to DRS?


One of the main concerns is that the scheme may increase the cost of products for consumers, as retailers may pass on the deposit cost to customers.


Another potential issue is that the deposit return scheme may not be suitable for all drinks or containers. For example, certain packaging materials may not be easily recyclable, which could limit the scheme's effectiveness.


In addition, the logistics of implementing a deposit return scheme can be complex, requiring significant investment in infrastructure and collection systems. This could pose a challenge for smaller retailers and businesses, who may struggle to comply with the requirements of the scheme.


What does it mean for hospitality?


Hospitality businesses, like restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels sell millions of bottles and cans each year.

Businesses that sell drinks to take away (cafés and takeaways) and those that sell drinks to be consumed on-site only (pubs and restaurants) will have different obligations.

If you sell any drinks for off-site consumption, you will have to charge the deposit to your customers on those drinks and operate a return point.

If you sell drinks for consumption on-site, for example in a bar or restaurant, you can choose whether to charge the 20p deposit or not. This is because the container is not expected to leave the premises.

If you sell only drinks for consumption on-site, you don't have to operate as a general return point for scheme containers.

You will have to return the containers you've sold on-site to the scheme administrator for recycling. As such, you'll pay the 20p container deposit to the retailer or wholesaler, which you get back from the scheme administrator when you return the containers.

Businesses selling drinks to be consumed on-site that do not apply a deposit will not be expected to receive returns from outside their own business. 

However, if you sell any in-scope drinks to be taken away, you will be required to charge a deposit and operate a return point.


How to prepare for DRS

To get ready for DRS, you could already be thinking about how you reduce the number of containers from your offering. From eco-spirits initiatives to our own bag-in-box post-mix soft drinks to draught/kegged beers, we can support you with a variety of solutions.

Switch ahead of time


Where possible, try to plan ahead and make your life simpler - like a switch in solutions to sustainable spirits. ecoSPIRITS is the world's first low carbon, low waste spirits distribution technology. They use an innovative closed-loop distribution system that nearly eliminates packaging waste in the premium spirits supply chain. It is a massive win for sustainability in their business - and potentially yours too.


At Dunns, we now have two of their collaborations in the 4.5L format – Avallen Calvados, a brandy that is the world-first "planet positive spirit", and also London's Portobello Road Gin.


On a similar note, we also have two 2.8L eco-Pouch products from The Sustainable Spirit Co. in the form of Element 29 vodka and Boxer Gin.

Go refillable where possible


We manufacture a comprehensive range of bag-in-box solutions, with over 1.4 million litres of Dunns draught sold each year, equivalent to more than 4.6 million cans of coke! By using our bag-in-box solution, you can save on extra DRS container fees.


Our dispensed bag-in-box solutions are available in a variety of flavours and can be delivered on our food trucks. One box of our bag-in-box solution can provide 70L of dispensed drink, and at a dash size of 60ml, you can achieve over 1,000 dashes per box.


We offer everything from an original full-sugar recipe Cola bag-in-box to our Diet Cola version that caters to the growing demand for low-sugar alternatives. So, whether it's a classic flavour or a new twist, we have a bag-in-box soft drink that your customers will love, and you'll love the sustainability and convenience of our draught dispense system.


Find out more


Scotland's new deposit return scheme is a huge undertaking that will affect many businesses and create new challenges for hospitality. Dunns can help. There are many ways your business can prepare for the significant change coming our way, and should you need any help, please get in touch.


I think we need to explain these terms. “Scheme Administrator” “Scheme containers’ etc - maybe in a fact box