Deposit-Return Scheme For Plastic Bottles EU-Wide
by George Kiernan
Pakire Polymers News
On August 13th 2021, an initiative was registered with the European Commission calling for a deposit-return scheme to apply to plastic bottles across the EU. The initiative has one year in which to receive one million signatures of support from a minimum of seven member states to force the Commission to react.
The organisers of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), titled ‘ReturnthePlastics’, are proposing an EU-wide deposit-return scheme for plastic bottles. They want all member states to require supermarkets to install reverse vending machines, in which customers can return their plastic bottles once they’ve finished with them.
They are also calling for a Plastic Tax to be places on the companies that produce plastic bottles to pay for the scheme until it is up and running. Their argument is that it should be the ones profiting off of the pollution they cause who pay for the solution.
Under the scheme, customers will be required to pay a €0.15 surcharge for each plastic bottle they buy as the deposit. They will then be able to return these plastic bottles to the reverse vending machines that supermarkets would be required to install, at which point they will be given their deposit back. With the objective here being increasing the recovery of plastic bottles, the responsibility of making the scheme appealing to consumers will be placed on the supermarkets.
Critics have already begun to voice their concerns with the proposal, with many claiming that it would discriminate against the elderly and people with disabilities. Members of these groups are often not in financially well-off positions, and the extra charge could prove too burdensome on them. They will also often have restricted mobility, meaning travelling to the supermarket to return plastic bottle might not be a possibility for them.
With the registration of the initiative, the organisers are now allowed to begin collecting signatures of support. They will have one year to receive their target of one million signatures from a minimum of seven member states to force the European Commission to react to the initiative.
The Commission will then be required to decide whether to proceed or not with the proposed deposit-return scheme; whatever they choose, they will be required to explain their decision. Given the EU’s stated commitment to sustainability and circularity, if they decide not to proceed there will be many people demanding an explanation.
At Pakire Polymers, we support any initiative that seeks to create a more sustainable and more circular economy, and as such we support this proposed deposit-return scheme. We of course want to be sure that the scheme is rolled out in such a way that doesn’t discriminate against people with disabilities or the elderly. A solution might be for supermarkets that offer grocery delivery services to include a plastic bottle collection service when delivering orders to customers.
Whatever the best way to solve the problems with the initiative in its current form, we are excited for this scheme to receive its required signatures and for the EU to implement it across all member states. Increasing plastic recovery and increasing the circularity of the economy must be a top priority for everyone.
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