Bottle on Kinniel beach during the Great British Beach Clean 2019 Jack Holt.jpg

Don't bottle Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme!

2 minute read

Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland

Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland

22 Mar 2023

We've been campaigning for a Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland for almost ten years. Our latest beach clean data shows that drinks-related pollution isn't going away.

To help us move toward a Circular Economy, at the Marine Conservation Society we’ve supported the implementation of an all-in Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in Scotland for almost ten years. We’re a founding partner of the Have You Got The Bottle? Campaign, led by Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland and starting in 2015.

Every year, our Beachwatch volunteers have gathered evidence of thousands of cans, drinks bottles and tops strewn across Scotland's beaches, demonstrating why a DRS is urgently needed.

In 2021, 92% of surveyed beaches in Scotland had littered drinks-related items (bottles, cans and lids), with one on average recorded every 3 metres.

Scotland’s seas and beaches are bearing the brunt of the delays to DRS, which was originally promised to be implemented in 2021 and was then pushed to 2022. We’re waiting for it to start on 16th of August 2023.

But, with speculation of further delays, we wanted to highlight just how consistent and widespread the problem of drinks-related litter is on Scotland’s beaches.


Credit: Aled Llywelyn

This week we launched our first annual Beachwatch Report using all the data gathered by our incredible volunteers all across the UK and Channel Islands throughout 2022, not just the September Great British Beach Clean. Our results revealed that 95% of surveyed beaches in Scotland had littered drinks-related items. Bottles and cans are piling up on beaches while we’re still waiting for the introduction of the long-promised Deposit Return Scheme.



surveyed beaches in Scotland had littered drinks-related items

The new First Minister must ensure the Deposit Return Scheme starts in August so it can begin delivering the many environmental benefits, from improved quality of recycled materials, to saving the taxpayer on Local Authority collection costs to of course fewer drinks items spoiling our beaches.

It has already been delayed twice and Scottish Ministers have had the powers to introduce the system since 2009. The Scottish Government can lead by example and introduce this proven circular economy measure, a crucial next step in helping to meet the twin challenges of the nature and climate emergencies.

We want to see a DRS introduced in Scotland delivered fairly, efficiently and without further delay as the next step toward a circular economy. It is an essential building block, alongside the promised Circular Economy Bill with targets for reuse and repair and other measures, that we need to get on and deliver.

We will continue to work with partners to ensure the system is delivered successfully in August this year.

Our message to the Scottish Government and to Circularity Scotland, the industry body responsible for running the scheme, is simple: Don’t bottle it!

Take action

Email your local MSP and tell them not to bottle Scotland's much-needed Deposit Return Scheme.

Important Update

On 18th April 2023, Scottish Government announced a further delay to the Deposit Return Scheme until March 2024. We're disappointed that yet again, the scheme will be delayed. We know Deposit Return Schemes have huge potential to turn the tide on drinks-related pollution, for the benefit of both people and planet. Scotland's seas cannot, and should not, be paying the price for our waste. We now call on everyone involved to work together to deliver a Deposit Return Scheme that Scotland can be proud of and will benefit our beaches for generations to come.