APRS Resources

Glass and the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme

Published March 29th 2023

APRS has always campaigned for an “all-in” deposit return which includes glass. This briefing gives a run-down of the rationale for including glass in the scheme and some pointers for how this will work specifically for hospitality.

The Rationale for Glass

Distortion of the market

The decision to include glass was taken in part specifically so as not to distort the market. Excluding glass would be expected to lead to drinks producers shifting to one-way glass, hitting jobs in other industries. This is an argument for one sector not meeting its costs of recovery in order to gain a competitive advantage (by continuing to externalise its costs onto local authorities) disguised as a fairness argument.
Currently those collection costs are borne by local authorities, via recycling, litter cleaning and street bin collection services, rather than by producers. For example, one estimate of the composition of city centre bins was that between a third and a quarter of the volume is in empty drinks containers destined for landfill. A switch to producer responsibility will free up substantial council funds to spend on frontline services across Scotland.

Recyclability of materials

Plastic recovered from mixed recycling is almost always contaminated and cannot be recycled into food grade products and must instead be “downcycled” into products such as car parts. Conversely, PET recovered in single clean stream deposit systems can be repeatedly recycled at food grade, just as glass and cans can be.
Currently, much of the glass recycled in Scotland is not suitable for closed loop recycling due to the way glass is currently recycled and processed, including the crushing of glass and mixing of colours. Including glass in deposit return will make closed loop recycling of glass far more viable.

Boost to recovery rates

Zero Waste Scotland’s figures from the 2019 FBC show just 59% of glass drinks containers are currently recovered by Scottish local authorities (figure 2 of the FBC Stage 1). In contrast the Estonian and Finnish deposit return systems achieve glass recovery rates of 89%. Even the inefficient 1970s California system recovers 74% of glass containers. (see Reloop’s guide to international systems). The Scottish Government’s FBC states: “Considering the case for glass against each of the investment objectives, it is estimated that glass capture rates will increase from the existing 64% level towards 90% (scheme target rate) thereby contributing to investment objective 1.” (2.41 on p36 of the 2019 FBC)
Furthermore, 46.9% of Scottish households – more than 1.25 million homes – do not have access to kerbside glass collection, based on data from LA WRAP. Seven local authorities offer no kerbside glass recycling at all in their areas: Aberdeenshire, Dundee City, Fife, Highland, Perth and Kinross, Scottish Borders and West Lothian. The majority of households in Glasgow are also not offered glass collections. Kerbside collection will continue for all other materials: removing more glass from it will reduce the cost of collection for local authorities.


Capturing 90% of all glass bottles in the deposit return scheme would enable Scotland to recycle 504 million glass bottles per year. Using recycled glass saves substantial carbon emissions, and research indicates that recycling in general creates ten times the employment associated with disposal of materials. This is contributing to the 500 jobs created through the scheme.

Glass as a litter problem

In the Marine Conservation Society’s most recent Beachwatch survey, glass bottles were found on 53% of all beach cleans, while their most recent Great British Beach Clean showed that glass was the third most common sort of litter found on our beaches. As the Scottish Government’s FBC notes, “Including glass will also help reduce litter rates of glass – which has a broader range of litter disamenity impacts compared to aluminium cans and PET.” – this refers to the direct physical impact of broken glass on wild and domestic animals, on those taking part in outdoor sports, on cyclists and children. Fire and Rescue services across the UK have also noted a link between littered glass and wildfires, exacerbating the need for it to be included in our deposit return scheme.

International evidence

Though England and Northern Ireland are currently not committed to including glass in their deposit return schemes, the Welsh government have, so Scotland are not alone in the UK in their commitment to include glass. Furthermore, while some European countries do not include glass in their schemes, nine out of the thirteen European countries with a deposit return system include glass in their schemes. By including glass in our scheme, Scotland is not reinventing the wheel, we are just replicating what works in other countries.

How Will it Work for hospitality?

Currently, hotels, bars, restaurants and the like pay trade waste costs to get materials, including glass containers, collected, and they already do the work of separating materials for collection. With deposit return they will instead see deposit-bearing containers collected for free by the system operator, saving substantial sums, especially on glass, which is the heaviest material.

Upon return, you will place glass into tote boxes or bins, not into the plastic sacs used for PET and aluminium. Whether you receive a bin or a tote bag will be determined upon registration, based on the amount of containers you are expected to collect (though this can change after the go-live date if you increase sales). The glass should not be broken in tote bags, though it can naturally break in bins. Once this is full, close it and seal it with a barcoded tag. Bins and totes will be delivered to closed loop premises from July 2023.

The Scottish deposit return scheme ensures that closed-loop systems will receive a handing fee of 0.13p per container to cover time spent engaging with the scheme. Handling fees will be paid weekly, based on counted volumes in a given week, the Friday of the following week. The invoices will be self-billing. Few countries with deposit return systems pay handling fees to closed loop systems, so this in addition to reductions in trade-waste, will ensure some income for hospitality groups from the scheme.

Scheme articles will currently be collected by Biffa, though there is potential for this to be subcontracted. All these collections will be free of charge for hospitality businesses.
Closed loop hospitality providers are still required to register with Circularity Scotland. Extra collections during particularly busy periods can also be arranged through Circularity Scotland and these will also be free of cost.

If businesses sell drinks for consumption on premises only, you do not have to charge a deposit on drinks containers and will receive a handling fee of 0.13p to cover time spent engaging with the scheme. If you sell drinks for takeaway and consumption elsewhere, you will have to operate as a return point and charge the 20p deposit. In this case you will have to accept all materials included in the scheme, though you can reject the containers if they are soiled or if the barcode is unreadable. You also only have to charge the deposit on drinks that are intended for consumption off-site. However you will receive a higher handling fee, or alternatively may be eligible for an exemption.

Businesses will undoubtedly have drinks containers that were purchased before the scheme was launched. In these cases, you can sell these products without the deposit, but you must clearly communicate to the customer that these are not part of the scheme and that no deposit can be redeemed from them.

More info for closed loop systems: https://circularityscotland.com/documents/closed-loop-blueprint.pdf
More general information for retail points: https://circularityscotland.com/documents/deposit-return-blueprint-for-retailers-and-hospitality.pdf

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