According to a new report from circular economy platform Reloop, the past decade has witnessed an explosive growth in the implementation of deposit return systems (DRS) across the globe. Governments, said the organisation, are increasingly opting for these systems, as they are proving to be an effective tool to tackle the vast amounts of waste plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans.
What makes these systems so effective? Known as ‘container refund schemes’ in Australia or ‘bottle bills’ in the U.S., these systems see customers pay a small deposit when they purchase a can or bottle, which they get back when they return the container to a collection point for recycling. As this provides an economic incentive to recycle, DRSs typically result in beverage container recycling rates that are two to three times higher than the rates achieved by jurisdictions that rely on kerbside recycling programs, particularly if the deposit is set at an effective level.
Moreover, such schemes have historically enjoyed widespread public support. According to ReLoop, new laws are embraced by the public fervour, and most respondents to public opinion polls support expansion of existing deposit laws or introduction of new ones. The data shows that by the end of 2020, some 291 million people will have access to a deposit return system, a number expected to grow to 498 million by the end of 2023. According to the Container Recycling Institute, worldwide coverage of at least 1 billion is achievable by 2030.
The present report, entitled Reloop's Global Deposit Book 2020: An Overview of Deposit Return Systems for One-Way Beverage Containers, offers a comprehensive summary of over 40 deposit systems in place around the world.
Among the findings are that European countries with DRS have an average beverage container return rate of a stunning 91%. Australia’s deposit programs, which are relatively new compared to other jurisdictions, have the lowest success rates so far, with an average return rate of 68%.
The return-to-retail model of DRS - where empty bottles and cans are returned for a refund of the deposit at shops where they are purchased - is the most effective, with an average return rate of 89%, compared to return-to-redemption centre or depot systems, which have an average return rate of 81%.
As Clarissa Morawski, CEO of Reloop, has pointed out, to date, Deposit Return Systems are the only proven way for a country to achieve recycling rates of over 90%.
“Reloop’s Global Deposit Book 2020 is good news for the planet,” she said.
The previous report ws published in 2018, at which time nearly 290 million people worldwide had access to DRSs. Since then, several new programs have been implemented or announced, including Malta (2022), Western Australia (2020), Victoria (2023), Turkey (2023), Tasmania (2022), Portugal (2022), Scotland (2022), Romania (2022), Slovakia (2023), Latvia (2022), Singapore (2022), Jamaica (2021), New Zealand (2022), and England, Wales and Northern Ireland (2023).