Evaluation of digital technology in a deposit return scheme

Recent innovations in digital technology in a deposit return scheme could potentially deliver a more flexible, more inclusive service, and better value for money. But what exactly is the digital technology required, how would it work, and what is required from all the different companies and organisations involved?


Phase 1 of this study set out to understand stakeholder views on the design and feasibility of digitally-enhanced deposit return scheme (DDRS).

Phase 2 outlines three fundamentally different approaches to designing a DDRS and evaluates the pros and cons and market readiness levels of system components. Key uncertainty and information gaps identified in previous research were addressed.

“This study drives forward the discussion on how digital technology can support a deposit return scheme that is better for citizens, for industry, and for the environment.

“For the first time, clear system designs are laid out and assessed. This work will inform future policy design and engagement activities, creating the opportunity for digital technology to support a DRS.”


The study drew heavily on expert stakeholder engagement, including interviews with retail, manufacturing, brands, technology providers, trade and industry bodies, waste management companies, local authorities and non-profit organisations.


The study outlined:

  1. HOW a DDRS might be implemented in Wales, as well as in England and Northern Ireland – presenting three different approaches, each with a system design and SWOT analysis.
  2. WHEN a DDRS could be implemented in Wales, as well as in England and Northern Ireland – analysing market readiness levels of the three system designs and identifying which one requires the fewest structural changes compared to current practices.
  3. IF the purported benefits be realised – balancing the benefits of cost-saving and convenience of digital solutions with the higher quality recyclate associated with reverse vending machines.

Further research needs were identified to quantify and compare the carbon impacts of DRS and DDRS.

Download the reports.

Project Information

Services involved


Data and Tools

Team involved

George Cole

Sam Reeve

Archana Pisharody
Senior Consultant

Sally Scholefield
Senior Consultant / Designer