Any deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers in Scotland and the rest of the UK would need to be owned and run by manufacturers and retailers in order to run at maximum efficiency, a senior executive at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has warned.

The Scottish Government is due to announce details of its proposed DRS shortly, which could see a levy of 10-20p added to drinks containers, and a requirement for all stockists to return the deposit value to shoppers bringing back empty cans and bottles. A consultation on the topic closed with more than 3,000 responses and the results are currently being analysed, with a possible implementation date of the scheme as soon as 2020. The UK government is also expected to launch a consultation for a similar scheme in England within weeks.

Speaking at last week’s Scottish Grocers’ Federation conference, CCEP head of sustainability Nick Brown said that Coca-Cola is involved in around 40 deposit programmes around the world, and the key principle for success is that it is consumer-focused and easy to understand, and aligned with good standards of governance, anti-fraud protection and incentives to manage costs. As such, Brown suggested a steering committee made up of manufacturers and leading retailers would help ensure the system worked at its most efficient.

“At a deposit level of 10p per container, there would an additional £300m worth of shoppers’ money in circulation in the system,” he said. “We are creating a £300m industry here, and even though it is not-for-profit it needs to be run by the industry itself.”

At the SGF conference, Harald Henriksen of reverse vending machine supplier TOMRA said that in Norway, 93% of drinks packaging is returned via reverse vending machines situated in 3,700 locations, whereas only 7% is returned via the 11,300 smaller retail outlets without machines. The reverse vend units can be purchased by retailers, along with a service contract, or supplied free but with a handling fee per container returning to TOMRA.

Scotmid is trialling a machine at its South Queensferry story on the east coast of Scotand. There is no deposit charged on the bottles, but shoppers returning the bottle via the reverse vending machine are rewarded with a 10p money off voucher, or can make a 10p donation to Keep Scotland Beautiful. The machine is calibrated so it only returns a reward on products that are stocked at the store. In the first week of use, nearly 1,000 items were returned, with an average of five items per visit.

SGF head of policy and public affairs John Lee added: “Deposit return is not a philosophical question for us any more, it is going to happen. What we have to do is make sure we get a system that is fit for purpose for retailers, for the value chain and for Scotland.”