Circular economy: It’s time to acknowledge the role of Deposit Refund Systems (DRS)

Source: press release, 6 October 2021

The EU should facilitate the beverage industry’s transition to circularity by developing a legal framework for setting up new efficient DRS for beverage packaging
The EU should facilitate the beverage industry’s transition to circularity by developing a legal framework for setting up new efficient DRS for beverage packaging (photo: NMWE/UNESDA/ZWE)

Natural Mineral Waters Europe (NMWE), UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe and Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) urge the EU to acknowledge the role of Deposit Refund Systems (DRS) and support the establishment of minimum requirements for new DRS in the revision of the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. They also reiterate their full commitment to collaborate with policymakers and local stakeholders in the implementation of efficient industry-wide collection schemes across the EU.

Accelerating the transition to a circular economy, as set out in the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, is a collective objective and DRS are part of the solution to contribute to it and achieve the target to make all packaging reusable and recyclable by 2030. In addition, the EU’s Single Use Plastics Directive imposes a 90% collection rate for plastic beverage bottles by 2029 and a minimum of 25% recycled plastic in PET bottles from 2025 (30% from 2030 in all beverage bottles).

‘‘Given current collection performances across the EU, many EU Member States are unlikely to achieve the EU collection targets. This is why we support well-designed DRS as one of the most efficient options for meeting the collection and recycled content targets set in the EU’s Single Use Plastics Directive but also as an opportunity to create a closed-loop recycling system guaranteeing the material is returned and recycled in new beverage containers”, says Nicholas Hodac, UNESDA’s Director General.

“DRS have not only delivered high collection rates for beverage packaging in countries where they are in place, but they also have the benefit of providing high-quality food-grade recycled material in a clean single stream. They can also contribute towards the EU’s climate objectives, for example by reducing the need for virgin materials thanks to closed loop recycling. However, in spite of their excellent track record, the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste legislation does not currently address DRS in any way, nor does it secure closed loop recycling for food-grade materials,” continues Patricia Fosselard, NMWE’s Secretary General.

The European Commission can play a crucial role in filling this gap by developing minimum requirements to assist EU Member States to provide a strong framework for the establishment of efficient new DRS.

“Such minimum requirements should build on those for Extended Producer Responsibility schemes laid down in the Waste Framework Directive. Setting up this guidance at EU level could help ensure that DRS infrastructure across Member States also accommodates where possible, from the outset, refillable packaging, in line with the EU goals on packaging waste prevention and reuse. With a swift adoption of those minimum requirements, we are confident that we can move faster towards meeting both circular economy and climate objectives,” says Joan Marc Simon, Director of Zero Waste Europe.

NMWE, UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe and Zero Waste Europe believe that any new Deposit Refund System should be established along some basic principles with respect to geographical and material scope, governance, consumer convenience and incentivisation, and producers’ access to recycled materials.