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Biffa awarded 10-year contract for deposit return scheme

The deposit return scheme will recycle bottles, cans and plastic (Andrew Matthews/PA)
The deposit return scheme will recycle bottles, cans and plastic (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Waste management company Biffa has been given a 10-year contract to handle the logistics of Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) when it begins next year.

When implemented, the DRS will see shoppers pay a 20p deposit when buying drinks in cans and bottles, with the money returned to them when they return the empty containers for recycling.

The launch of the scheme was delayed to August 2023, after a review found the July 2022 deadline was not feasible.

A non-profit company called Circularity Scotland will administer the Scottish Government scheme, with Biffa contracted to be its logistics partner.

Single-use cup charges
Three new recycling centres will be created (Ben Birchall/PA)

Biffa will handle the collection of bottles and cans from about 30,000 locations around Scotland as well as building three new sorting centres.

The company said about £80 million had been committed to the DRS, including through property leasing.

About 500 jobs are expected to be created.

Michael Topham, chief executive of Biffa, said: “We’re delighted to have been appointed to provide logistics, sorting and counting services for Scotland’s landmark deposit return scheme.

“This appointment is testament to the strength of Biffa’s reputation as a sustainable waste management provider to complex markets, our extensive capabilities and world-leading recycling infrastructure.”

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater has said there will be planned “milestones” for the DRS.

In January this year, she said this would include an awareness campaign and the construction of the sorting centres in August.

The Scottish Green Party minister said the industry would lead on the scheme based on the “polluter pays” principle.

Opposition MSPs voiced concern about Circularity Scotland being a limited company rather than a public body, saying ministers were not in charge of it.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the DRS was an “important step towards creating a more circular economy”.

“The scheme will ultimately recycle billions of bottles and cans every year, helping to cut litter, prevent waste and reduce emissions,” the spokesman said.

“The award of this contract is a key milestone in the roll out of the scheme. With thousands of return points, it will be as easy to return your empty bottle or can as it was to buy it in the first place.

“Effective logistics will play a huge role in ensuring the scheme works for both the public and for businesses and we look forward to working with Biffa and Circularity Scotland to deliver success.”