Which European countries have adopted the deposit?

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Soon a deposit on plastic bottles? This is the proposal that the French government is relaunching on Monday, January 30, to achieve the European objective of 90% collection and recycling in 2029, against less than 60% today in France.

The initiative had been considered in 2020 by the government during the vote on the anti-waste law for a circular economy (Agec), but abandoned due to strong opposition from local authorities. The deposit, which consists of refunding the container to consumers who return their empty bottles to a collection point, has already been adopted by several European countries.

► The German example

Germany, often cited as an example, opted for deposit (“Pfand” in the vernacular) in the 1990s for reusable beverage containers. In 2003, the federal government extended the deposit to all single-use containers, bottles, yogurt pots, aluminum cans and even bricks.

In concrete terms, the price of a product on purchase is increased by 8 to 15 euro cents, depending on the nature of the packaging, reusable or not. The cost of depositing single-use packaging is higher than recyclables because the cost to the environment is considered higher.

Once the product has been consumed, the sum can be recovered if the consumer returns the packaging to deconsignment machines. The measure has proven itself across the Rhine: up to 98.5% of bottles and cans are now recycled, according to the European consumer center, compared to 43% of French cans.

► Scandinavian countries at the forefront

The Nordic countries have implemented the deposit for more than twenty years. In Sweden, cans have been returnable since 1984 and plastic bottles since 1994. The collection rate was 85% in 2017 for cans and bottles.

In Norway, beverage packaging is subject to an environmental tax. The amount of this tax decreases when the collection rate increases, encouraging producers and distributors to set up a deposit system in 1999. It concerns single-use plastic and aluminum packaging.

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For its part, Denmark has imposed a deposit of between 13 and 40 centimes, depending on the material and the volume, since 2002. The country records 90% of packaging collection.

► Late adoptions

The Netherlands opted for a deposit system in 2004. It has been extended since July 2021 to plastic containers of less than one litre, on the 1er July 2021, up to 15 cents. Slovakia, for its part, adopted the deposit in 2022 for bottles of 0.1 to 3 liters, in aluminum and plastic, for water, alcohol and juices, like Malta.

► The Baltic countries

In the Baltic countries, Estonia and Lithuania have adopted the measure. The Estonian deposit, in force since 2005, is 10 cents, excluding alcoholic beverages over 6%.

In Lithuania, the deposit, implemented in 2016, concerns plastic bottles, glass and metal, in addition to a “pollution” tax imposed on companies producing too much non-recycled waste. If the company recycles at least 95% of its bottles, it is exempt from the tax. The collection rate would now stand at 92%.

► Outside EU

The directive has also been adopted by European countries outside the European Union. This is the case for example in Iceland, where a deposit of 11 cents has applied since 1989 to plastic, glass and aluminum beverage packaging, apart from milk and juice. Its recycling rate reached 80% on average in 2018.

In Finland, the deposit system is not obligatory but strongly recommended, through an incentive measure of exemption from tax on packaging of 51 centimes per litre. The collection rate for its packaging thus reached 95% of aluminum in 2018. Other countries are considering setting up a deposit, such as Belgium, Turkey and Belarus.

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