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Home Resident Recycling and Waste Polytag Deposit Return Scheme Pilot

Polytag Deposit Return Scheme Pilot

Summary (optional)
A trial of a digital Deposit Return Scheme will take place in Colwyn Heights, Conwy, in June and July.
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Video transcript (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions

Which organisations are involved in this pilot?

What is a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)?

It is a system to encourage consumers to recycle by earning rewards. The consumer pays a small deposit which is refunded when the item is returned to a shop or collection point to be recycled.

Traditionally this has been done with Reverse Vending Machines, where people return empty packaging and get a reward in return. In other countries, such as Germany, the system has been introduced using Reverse Vending Machines, with some debated results. Germany does not have a kerbside collection system like the UK.

In this pilot, households will be able to use their normal kerbside collection system to return packaging, and scan a code on the packaging to claim their deposit.

What is Polytag?

Polytag is a Wales based start-up that has developed an innovative system for tagging and tracing individual items of packaging.

These tags enable householders to easily support and use an in-home Deposit Return System that enhances the existing kerbside collection systems in Wales.

Polytag has been selected by the Welsh Government to run the local pilot in Colwyn Heights.

More information on the company’s website:


Why we are running this Pilot Scheme

Why does Wales want to be at the forefront of this development?

Wales has the 3rd highest recycling rates in the world. With the ambition to become number 1.

The conclusion of a UK wide consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was that England, Wales and Northern Ireland will implement a Deposit Return Scheme by 2023.

The traditional way to implement a Deposit Return Scheme is through Reverse Vending Machines, machines that returns a deposit (usually cash) to the user who feeds it with packaging items.

Reverse Vending Machines are expensive (Defra estimates a deployment cost of £2.2bn in the UK plus £500m a year to operate), inconvenient for users and retailers (having to give up valuable retail space to operate the machines and store the packaging) and take away value from the kerbside bins.

The Welsh Government wants to determine which technologies could be used to enable and support digital in-home Deposit Return Schemes. Polytag has been selected to run a pilot in Conwy to test this.

What is the scale of the problem?

In one word: HUGE! There are 28 billion on the go packaging items every year in the UK – these will be subject to the Deposit Return Scheme (source: Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: Executive summary and next steps - GOV.UK (

About the Pilot Scheme

When will the pilot run?

In June and July 2021 for four weeks.

How will the pilot work?

  1. 550 households in the Colwyn Heights area will be approached by our dedicated Polytag team to ask if they want to be involved in the pilot. 
  2. Participating households will receive 6 bottles of mineral water (1.5 litres), each one with a unique Polytag code. Households will get an information pack explaining how to download the app (to scan the items) and a sticker to put on their kerbside recycling container.
  3. During the 4 weeks of the pilot, the participants will use the bottles of mineral water at their convenience.
  4. Before putting the empty bottles in their normal recycling box, the participants will use the Polytag app to scan the unique codes.

    - This will tell the Polytag system that the bottle has been put out for recycling.
  5. The recycling crew, on the normal collection day, will scan the Polytag codes during their round.

    - This will tell the Polytag system that the bottle has been identified by the recycling crew

    - A virtual 20p reward token will then be issued via the app, telling the householder that the bottle has been successfully recycled.
  6. The reward tokens will be donated to a nominated local school and Polytag will match these donations to a maximum of £1,000.

How do householders take part?

If a householder lives in Colwyn Heights, our Polytag team will be in touch about the pilot. They will explain when it starts, how it works and what householders need to do. At this stage, the pilot is limited to Colwyn Heights only.

App Store (iOS, iPhone):

Google Play (Android):

Why did you choose Colwyn Heights?

Colwyn Heights ticked all the requirements for this pilot: the right number of households, a local shop in the locality and a school. Most importantly, the members of the community are avid recyclers and have participated in other recycling projects in the past.

What about households that do not have access to a smartphone?

If a householder doesn’t have access to a smartphone, they can still take part. They simply need to inform a member of the Polytag team and put the items out for collection as normal. No further action is required. The recycling collection crew will be informed and they will scan these items with a special version of the app.

I can’t seem to scan the Polytag label on my plastic bottle? 

Sometimes your phone takes a few seconds to focus. Using the Polytag app, press the scan button and place the Polytag label on the bottle in the centre of the camera view, hold your phone about 3 inches/7.5 cm away and it will recognise the code. Then simply follow the instructions on the app.

Where should the coded sticker go on the recycling container?

The sticker needs to be visible to collections crews when they empty your container. Ideally, the sticker should be placed on the side of the plastic compartment of your recycling trolley box.

What happens to the plastic bottles that are collected through the pilot? 

All of Conwy’s mixed plastics are currently recycled in the UK at Jayplas’ Plastics Recovery Facility in Alfreton, South Normanton. 

Find out more about what happens to materials collected for recycling.

Benefits of the Pilot Scheme

Will this increase recycling?

That’s something the pilot is designed to find out. Wales’s overall municipal recycling rate is around 65%, making Wales the nation with the third highest recycling rate in the world.  As we strive to be a zero waste nation by 2050 (where effectively, there is 100% recycling of all materials) a Deposit Return Scheme is likely to be an important tool in achieving this ambition.

How much money will this raise for the school?

A 20p reward token will be issued for every bottle recycled as part of this pilot. This will be donated to a nominated local school and Polytag will match fund it to a maximum of £1,000.

After the Pilot Scheme

How will the pilot be evaluated?

Wrap Cymru will independently evaluate the success of the pilot, analysing the data collected through the app, the waste and recycling collection team and interviewing a sample of the participants.

What are the next steps if the pilot is a success?

If the pilot is deemed successful by Wrap Cymru, the scheme will be rolled out regionally at the end of 2021, with the ambition to roll it out nationally by 2023.

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