Scotland has always been at the forefront of innovation throughout its history and the new Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is another example of the willingness of the country to embrace revolutionary change. The Scottish Government is helping to lead the way towards a greener and cleaner future.

We caught up with Donald McCalman, Director of Circularity Scotland, the DRS administrator, to find out more about what it is, why it's needed and their role in its implementation.

Donald McCalman headshot and Circularity Scotland logo

Donald McCalman, Director of Circularity Scotland and DRS administrator.

What is the point of the Deposit Return Scheme? Why is it needed?

At the highest level, the DRS will reduce litter and improve the quality and quantity of recycling in Scotland. Zero Waste Scotland's research predicts that 34,000 fewer plastic bottles, cans and glasses will be littered every day with the introduction of a DRS in Scotland. With thousands of return points set-up nationwide, £62 million a year could be saved tackling the indirect impacts of litter.

Since Norway introduced a deposit return scheme in 1999, it's now recovering 98% of PET plastic bottles. We're excited about the potential benefits for Scotland, particularly the incredible environmental benefits that come with a circular economy.

How will the Deposit Return Scheme work? What's the mechanics behind it?

In 2017, the Scottish Government first announced its ambition to introduce a DRS  in Scotland to increase recycling rates and reduce litter. Regulations passed by the Scottish Parliament in May 2020 paved the way for drinks producers and importers to nominate a scheme administrator to fulfil the obligations - we've taken on that role on their behalf.

Producers will add the 20p fee to prices charged to wholesalers, who pass it to the retailer, who pass it on to the eventual consumer. Consumers will be reimbursed by return point operators, which will include the majority of Scotland's retailers and hospitality premises, when they bring back suitable containers. Consumers will be reimbursed with either money or credits.

The retailer, in turn, is reimbursed by Circularity Scotland as we will collect and ratify the returned material from the retailer. Circularity Scotland is then reimbursed by the producer and the loop starts again. Finally, Circularity Scotland will sell the collected materials to reprocessors to ensure that every returned container is used to make a new drinks container.

What is Circularity Scotland?

Circularity Scotland Limited was successfully appointed as a Scheme Administrator by the Scottish Government earlier this year to ensure the successful roll-out of Scotland's DRS.  We are a commercial organisation run on a not-for-profit basis to represent drinks producers, trade associations and retailers.

We will be handling the implementation and operation of Scotland's DRS in a sustainable and efficient manner, with a professional team, world class logistics and IT partners, and deploying leading edge technology.

What is Circularity Scotland here to do?

I believe the DRS will be a gamechanger in Scotland's ambition to become a greener and cleaner country. It supports a circular economy and the Scottish Government's ambitious plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2045.

Circularity Scotland will play a key role in this. We were set up with the specific purpose of administering Scotland's DRS by 20 of the largest drinks producers and retailers, together with trade associations representing thousands of businesses included in the DRS.

We have a bold vision for the future with plans well underway for the delivery of a world-class system that will transform the culture of recycling in our country.

We're here to ensure there's a smooth transition and implementation of the DRS, which will improve the quality and quantity of recycling in Scotland. By doing this, we'll help to play a major part in the push towards net zero emissions targets and significantly reduce litter across every community.

As well as handling the financial and logistical aspects of the scheme, we will actively help drinks producers, importers, wholesalers and retailers to fully understand how Circularity Scotland can support them with the introduction of the DRS. We will also play a part in educating the public about how the scheme will work for them and how it benefits Scotland's economy and the environment.

Who does Circularity Scotland represent?

Circularity Scotland represents a combination of drinks producers, trade associations and retailers. We work with companies throughout the whole supply chain - from producers through to hospitality, wholesalers and retailers. The whole industry is committed to delivering a system that will collect at least 90% of single-use drinks containers across Scotland.

The majority of producers are expected to sign up with Circularity Scotland. We will act on their behalf managing the whole process from registration to collection and we look forward to working with them to make the DRS a big success.

What will Circularity Scotland do after the scheme launches?

Circularity Scotland will be responsible for ensuring the DRS functions efficiently and meets its annual collection targets. We will organise the collection of empty bottles and cans from thousands of reverse vending machines and manual return points located across Scotland.

Circularity Scotland will also handle producer and return point fees and payment of deposits, while we'll take responsibility for registering retailers and producers who will be involved in the scheme.

What will happen to all the cans and bottles you plan to collect?

The plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans collected by Circularity Scotland will be recycled and fed back into the production cycle for new bottles and cans. The scheme is projected to cut four million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions over 25 years.

To find out more about Scotland's DRS and to subscribe for updates visit