The discussion, says the report, is being fuelled by a series of trends, including the growing awareness that plastic waste is polluting even the far reaches of the planet; concerns raised by the Basel Convention and the associated rising costs of collection, processing and recycling for parts of the world that used to rely on China, India, and many other Asian countries to buy and sort through mixed recyclables; and the growing momentum to transition from a “take- make-waste” industrial model to a “circular economy”.
While the motivation to act is there, it is essential to gain an understanding of how high-performing deposit return systems work, while others do not.
Tomra evaluated deposit models against key metrics such as cost efficiency and the percentage of containers returned for recycling, and found that the most effective deposit systems share the following four principles:
- Performance: A collection target for all beverage containers plus a meaningful deposit delivers strong results.
- Convenience: The redemption system is easy, accessible and fair for all users.
- Producer Responsibility: Producers finance and invest in the system using the unredeemed deposits, commodity revenues, and an eco-modulated EPR fee.
- System Integrity: Trust is built into the system's processes through transparent management, a data-driven clearinghouse, and reliable redemption technology.
In the white paper, these four design principles are further fleshed out with the 12 key elements that constitute these principles. The authors encourage stakeholders to consider the 12 elements discussed in this paper “as part of an ecosystem rather than a menu of options. Prioritising one but not the other could disrupt the system’s performance and cost effectiveness.”
“With alarming growth in plastic waste worldwide, and drive from businesses, consumers and governments alike to take action, it is vital that deposit return systems truly achieve the environmental objectives they strive toward,” said Wolfgang Ringel, Senior Vice President Group Governmental Affairs in Tomra.
In that context, this paper can contribute. As Tomra makes clear, deposit return systems are a proven solution to many of these challenges, but the performance of these systems varies depending on their design.
By offering stakeholders what it calls a ‘recognised blueprint for action when it comes to beverage container waste’, the report provides guidance and support on best practices to accelerate the adoption of a circular economy, to meet performance targets, and to address the chronic problem of beverage container litter.