Back to the future - £900,000 fund to trial recycling rewards

10th June 2012

Scots are being urged to help breathe new life into a traditional approach to boosting recycling rates.

Thanks to new technology which has made it easier and more productive to recycle, Zero Waste Scotland is launching new trials which will see the return of getting money back for returning empty bottles and cans. 

Up to £900,000 will be invested by Zero Waste Scotland to develop pilot ‘deposit return’ and ‘reverse vending’ facilities in Scotland.   These systems will reward people for recycling through a range of incentives such as money back, discount vouchers or loyalty points. 

From Monday, retailers, high streets and shopping centres, schools, and events venues will be able to bid for funding to run a deposit return or reverse vending recycling pilot.  The funding will focus on projects in contexts where traditional recycling systems are less effective. 

Zero Waste Scotland estimates that around 22,000 tonnes of plastic (PET) drinks bottles currently go to landfill in Scotland annually – material which, if it was recycled, could be worth around £6 million a year to the economy at current market prices.

Environment Minister Richard Lochhead said:

 “A lot of us remember taking our empty glass bottles back to the shop for money. I remember when I was growing up running to our local shop with my glass bottle to get my money back. Now with the help of modern technology, this approach can also be used to recycle the valuable plastic bottles and metal cans we currently send to landfill.

“Last year we made an election manifesto commitment to pilot deposit return and reverse vending systems for single use plastic, glass, and aluminium containers in Scotland.  New recycling methods must be considered to help us continue to boost our recycling rate and make the most of our valuable resources.”

Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“Deposit and return systems have proven successful in many other parts of the world including Germany, Scandinavia and South Australia.  Trialling these systems in Scotland will allow us to see whether they could be adopted them more widely.

“Current recycling systems including household collections and public recycling points already play an important role.  But large amounts of valuable materials like plastic bottles and drinks cans still end up in landfill and alternative recycling methods could help us harness this lost value.”

All pilot projects will be monitored and evaluated by Zero Waste Scotland.  Assessments will measure public perception and acceptability, the tonnage of material captured and its quality, whether the material has been diverted from kerbside collections, bring sites or landfill, littering and where appropriate, increased footfall, visitors, use of facility, and visitor spend.  Pilot projects should aim to be completed by 27 September 2013.  

Applications to the fund can be made at  The final deadline for applications is 5 pm on Friday 28 September 2012 and applications will be assessed on a rolling basis.


Deposit return systems charge a small additional fee on each container at the point of purchase which is refunded when returned for recycling.  Reverse vending systems offer incentives such as discount vouchers or loyalty points, for returned items.  Existing evidence shows that these schemes can deliver recycling rates of more than 80%.  

  • Zero Waste Scotland works with businesses, communities, individuals and local authorities to help them reduce waste, recycle more and use resources sustainably.
  • Zero Waste Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government to support the delivery of its Zero Waste Plan.
  • More information on all Zero Waste Scotland’s programmes can be found at 

For further information contact:

Jon Molyneux, Head of Communications, Zero Waste Scotland
Tel: 01786 433966
Mob: 07525 787721