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Container Deposit Is an Effective Waste Sorting Strategy

2014-04-02

A deposit system for disposable plastic, metal, and glass beverage packaging will start to operate in Lithuania from 2015. The Ministry of Environment initiated a survey of the population and found out that as many as 67 percent of respondents are positive about the introduction of such a system. It would not be an exaggeration to say already now that Lithuanian forests, lakeside, roadside, and public gathering places will win from that because they are the locations most polluted by plastic bottles and metal cans.

"Recently, there has been an increase in the number of negative public comments about the planned new deposit system. In most cases, the negative information is disseminated by interested groups only, this is why I urge to resist that and to stick to the facts. They show that deposit systems are paying off everywhere: environmental pollution decreases, the population begins to better understand the importance of waste sorting, businesses receive additional revenues. And nothing is becoming more expensive anywhere as some are trying to convince us," Environment Minister Valentinas Mazuronis says.

The Existing Waste Sorting System Are Inefficient

Gytis Žakevičius, a participant in the Young Professionals Program "Create for Lithuania," working on the creation of mandatory deposit for disposable package, says: "It took a long time until Lithuanian society understood the importance of waste sorting. However, the best sorting occurs when the user is encouraged financially. "A perfect example of that is a deposit for reusable beer bottles. We have not seen see this waste discarded on roadsides or in the woods for many years now.

The sorting system -- the public bell-shaped containers -- that is currently being used and into which paper, plastic, and glass are collected separately is not sufficiently effective even though it has existed for more than 10 years now. Its maintenance and development costs about 60 million litas per year, and the results are modest: only about 17 percent of the plastic packaging released into the market is collected back, the results for metal containers are even worse -- only 8.5 percent. Moreover, recyclers often complain that the secondary raw material that they receive is of poor quality and its content is insufficient. Therefore, they are forced to bring a lot of raw material from abroad.

It is obvious that the packaging that is not collected separately is either thrown into the environment or goes to a landfill together with the mixed household waste. In this way, the environment is being polluted, because it takes a lot of time for such packaging to decompose (PET bottles -- about 400 years, and metal cans -- 200 years) and the waste suitable for recycling is not used as a secondary raw material.

According to preliminary estimates, the losses that waste collectors incur because of the unsold recyclables reach about 150 million litas annually. Consumers are directly affected financially by that because of this situation. By not sorting and throwing all recyclables in the same household waste bins, they increase the amount of waste for the removal of which they pay themselves.

Advantages of the Deposit System

Based on the experience of foreign countries, it can be said that about 90 percent of plastic, glass, and metal beverage packaging is recovered from the market and recycled through the deposit system. Another participant in the "Create for Lithuania" Program Daumantas Simėnas, who is currently working in the Ministry of Environment, says that the deposit system that has been successfully working in the neighbouring Estonia has been able to function without any additional fees. "Several years after its introduction, such a system could become financially self-sufficient in Lithuania," D. Simėnas says.

Administrator responsible for the deposit system has two types of income at his disposal. Consumers who because of their irresponsibility throw away or spoil containers do not recover the deposit they have paid, which then goes to the system administrator. So it can be said that irresponsible users strongly contribute to the maintenance of the deposit system.

Another source of revenue is the revenue from the sale of recyclables. It is worth noting that only the packaging that is in order and undamaged is collected. Recyclers are prepared to apply higher price to buy high quality secondary raw materials. It is expected that once the deposit system is up and running, beverage manufacturers and importers will not have to pay an administration fee for the packages released into the market. Therefore, we can forecast that the prices of the goods subject to deposit will fall slightly.

Another important aspect is that the real amount of waste discharged into the mixed municipal waste containers will be reduced. This should encourage people to sort waste even more and to use public secondary raw materials containers, so that bills for the disposal of garbage removal are reduced.

Benefits for Businesses

The deposit system protects the environment: even the biggest critics do not question that. But there is also good news for businesses. The prices of the goods that are subject to deposits will decline slightly because manufacturers and importers will no longer have to pay the so-called administration fee, and the consumers will send smaller amounts of waste to landfills, which theoretically should lead to a decrease of fees for the household waste disposal.

The new deposit scheme will contribute to the promotion of business. The huge amounts of secondary raw materials that would be collected and the high quality should promote secondary raw material recycling and develop the market for production of new goods from the recycled raw material. It should also be noted that the stores that will accept deposit containers will receive a certain amount of compensation from the deposit system administrator for the costs incurred. This is especially topical for small regional stores, because they will get additional revenue.

World practice shows that as much as 70 percent of funds that have been reclaimed for returned containers are spent in the same store, this is why the retailers will increase their working capital because of the deposits, they will be able to offset part of the costs they incur through the deposit system administrator and increase their sales, and hence profits.

Public Information Division
02-04-2014

Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas
Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas