Scotland’s DRS Delayed to 2023

* 4 min read
In the wake of COP26, we were all expecting a raft of new national commitments and policies in line with key deals such as the deforestation deal and the inception of the Global Plastics Policy Centre. What we weren’t expecting was any kind of ‘blip’ or a temporary loss of momentum.

Unfortunately, here in the UK, one of the first big pieces of packaging-related news post-COP is that the long-awaited Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in Scotland has been postponed for the second time – this time to 2023. The scheme had already been postponed from 2021 to 2022 due to the impact of the pandemic, and now an independent review has concluded that it was just not feasible to launch the scheme by the new target date of 2022.

The scheme will see 20p added to single use drinks containers in Scotland, which customers will get back when they bring the empty bottle or can, back to a collection point. Similar schemes are common around the world (notable in many EU countries), to great success. Countries such as Germany, Sweden and Norway boast plastic bottle recycling rates of well over 90% thanks to their DRS schemes that provide financial incentives for consumers to change their recycling behaviour.


Image source: Signet

Government ministers have been quick to defend the deferral of Scotland’s DRS, citing a ‘perfect storm’ of Brexit, Coronavirus and tax rules.

The scheme will undeniably be a colossal logistical undertaking, requiring tens of thousands of collection points to be installed to allow the processing of 2 billion containers a year, not to mention the number of contracts required to be drawn up with retailers and other firms.
GC1Gillian Orr

Despite the deferral, all is not lost. Although this may seem like a small step backwards, one thing that I believe is extremely positive is that the end goal has not changed.

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Image source: Unsplash - Nareeta Martin

There have been calls to water down the scheme by removing materials or waiting for other UK nations to catch up, with England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s joint scheme not due until late 2024. However, Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater has insisted that Scotland’s DRS will still be the first to launch in the UK. The target of a 90% collection rate by 2024 still stands, to achieve this, implementation will switch to a phased approach starting with retailer-driven voluntary returns from November 2022.

Don’t be complacent, legislation is coming and needs to be implemented if we have any hope of reaching recycling targets. Regulatory targets and sustainability commitments to 2025 aren’t going anywhere, and (where it doesn’t already exist,) EPR is coming faster than we might care to admit.

When it comes to packaging, the time for businesses to adapt and prepare is now. And as consumers, we also have a responsibility to keep up that momentum and passion from COP26 to champion and promote behavioural change and make sure commitments from governments and businesses alike are delivered.

Pioneering the right choices for you, your customers and our planet.

About the author

imageedit 1 6168940299Gillian Orr – Lead Sustainability Consultant

Gill is a lead consultant, dedicated to providing clients with sustainable packaging strategy, process mapping / improvement and decoding the complex arena of global packaging regulation. She has experience across FMCG, food service and branded clients globally, implementing teams, processes and strategies to drive efficiency while ensuring transparency and integrity of packaging data through technology. Her solution-led, detail-oriented and collaborative approach ensures our clients receive the best possible advice to meet their sustainability targets and reduce waste - in all senses of the word 

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