Resolving plastic packaging waste: Can deposit return schemes provide a breakthrough?

While the prevalence of single-use plastic has grown dramatically over the last 20 years, the systems to contain, collect, reuse and recycle it have not kept pace. Plastic drinking bottles could be made out of 100% recycled plastic, known as rPET, and campaigners are pressing drinks companies to significantly increase the amount of recycled plastic in their bottles.

The EU Single-Use Plastics Directive sets a 90% separate collection target for plastic beverage bottles by 2029. Policymakers are debating whether deposit return schemes (DRS) can be the solution to achieve this target. Several EU countries have demonstrated that DRS can help meet the SUP targets much earlier than 2029 and guarantee a closed loop for plastic bottles.

DRS are a system where consumers buying a product pay an additional fee (a deposit) that is reimbursed upon the return of the packaging or product to a collection point.

On the one hand, DRS have the benefit of yielding high return rates in a separate “clean” stream for PET beverage bottles, thereby guaranteeing a closed loop and enabling a higher use of recycled content. However, there are also disadvantages to this system such as a perceived rise in the cost of products to consumers.

EURACTIV organised this Virtual Conference to discuss the challenges to achieve the EU’s circular economy targets.

Questions included:

  • Can DRS enable a faster and more cost-efficient delivery of the SUP targets?
  • What are the essential conditions that DRS need to meet in order to be efficient?
  • How to incentivise collection in all Member States? Where are the best practices?
  • What actions should value chain actors take to move towards greater circularity of PET in Europe?
  • How to extend DRS to all materials (cans, glass etc.) in order to avoid possible distortions of competition?
  • How to create a circular mindset amongst EU consumers to encourage the return of single-use materials?

Listen to the full event here:


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