Deposit return schemes
Introducing a deposit return scheme (DRS) is the most effective way for EU Member States to meet new targets, for example achieving a 90% collection rate on single-use plastic drinks bottles ahead of the 2025 deadline, according to TOMRA.
Deposit return schemes see consumers pay a deposit of up to €0.25 on plastic, aluminium and glass containers, which is then refunded when the bottle or can is returned for recycling. Eight EU nations now have a DRS, with Germany leading the way at a 98% return rate. TOMRA’s innovative ‘reverse vending’ machines – which enable automated collection – are also used in Lithuania, where a DRS implemented in 2016 saw recycling rates soar from 34% up to 92% within two years.
DRSs achieve up to 40% higher collection rates for plastic, aluminium and glass beverage containers than other collection methods and there are two main reasons for this:
- Financial incentive – providing consumers with a financial incentive not only motivates them to dispose of their container in the correct place, it also communicates that the container has a value, that it is not rubbish and should be treated as a resource. In fact, deposits reduce beverage litter by up to 80%.
- Increased purity – by separating bottles and cans for recycling through reverse vending machines, drink containers are collected without contamination from other types of waste in a household recycling bin. This means it can maintain a high level of quality, suitable for turning back into a bottle, rather than being downcycled for lower quality applications.
Turning a bottle back into a bottle is a process known as closed-loop recycling, which TOMRA calls the Clean Loop. This reduces both reliance on the raw materials needed to produce new beverage containers (that is, coming into the loop) and waste ending up in landfills or in nature as litter (going out of the loop).
Furthermore, a DRS works exceptionally well when policymakers and manufacturers work together to ensure that products are designed with recycling in mind. Around 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the design stage, so manufacturers should transform the way products are designed and produced, especially those made with mixed plastics that are extremely difficult or impossible to recycle.
EU Member States will have a challenge on their hands over the next couple of years to meet these new ambitious targets, however with good collaboration between manufacturers, policy makers and consumers the targets are very achievable.
A circular economy can be a result of this collaboration: having the right infrastructure in place to not only achieve high collection rates, but also maintain a high level of purity on the material collected, will ensure a bottle can be reincarnated again and again, keeping litter out of the world’s oceans, streets and landfills.
For more information please contact our Communications Manager Alexandra Ugland on +47 462 964 29.