European Environmental NGOs have expressed concern about ongoing discussions on the implementation of the separate collection of single-use plastic bottles as regulated by the EU Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD).
The Directive requires member states to ensure that 90% of plastic bottles are collected as a “separate waste stream” by 2029 at the latest.
In Austria and the Czech Republic, however, there are now discussions suggesting that this separate collection target could be met by including bottles from post-sorted residual waste, according to the NGOs.
Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Environmental Action Germany, DUH) and the Rethink Plastic alliance (RPa), both members of the global Break Free from Plastic (BFFP) movement, warn that “misguided interpretation” of the SUPD could “dramatically undermine” its main objectives – which is to reduce pollution from single-use plastic and support the transition towards a circular economy.
The introduction of deposit return systems (DRS) can largely contribute to achieving these objectives, the NGOs state.
DUH Deputy Executive Director Barbara Metz, said: “Plastic bottles are among the top items polluting European water bodies and beaches. This is why the introduction of deposit return systems all over Europe is particularly important.
“In Germany, the deposit on single-use beverage containers has had a drastic anti-littering effect. That is reflected by the very high collection rate of 98.5%. If plastic bottles were still collected via curbside collection, the collection rate would be considerably lower.
“In addition, pulling plastic bottles out of mixed packaging or residual waste would jeopardise all efforts to enable the desired bottle-to-bottle recycling. The required material quality cannot be achieved with those modes of collection, due to impurities and adhesions.
It is alarming that certain stakeholder groups, for example in Austria, are trying to sabotage this step towards more high-quality recycling in Europe
“It is alarming that certain stakeholder groups, for example in Austria, are trying to sabotage this step towards more high-quality recycling in Europe.”
The NGOs state that member states will only achieve the recycled content targets set in the Directive, if plastic bottles are collected as a “clean, separate waste stream”.
By 2025, single-use PET bottles have to contain a minimum recycled content of 25%, and by 2030, all single-use plastic bottles must contain a minimum recycled content of 30%.
With the Plastic Strategy and the Single Use Plastics Directive, the EU has made an “unprecedented commitment” to reduce waste and pollution and protect the environment, DUH and the Rethink Plastic alliance says.
The NGOs are calling on national governments to transpose and implement the legislation as it is intended, to reach maximum positive environmental impact.
Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Coordinator of the Rethink Plastic alliance and BFFP Europe, said: “The European Commission and EU governments must resist attempts made by some interest groups to water down the Single Use Plastics Directive.
“Citizens across Europe have praised the new measures on reducing single-use plastics and have shown support for Deposit return systems, for recycling but also for reuse.
“DRS have successfully existed for many years in some EU countries like Germany and now others, such as Portugal, Latvia and Romania, are setting the course for their implementation, since DRS is the most effective way to ensure high collection of beverage containers and reduce pollution.”
The European Commission and EU governments must resist attempts made by some interest groups to water down the Single Use Plastics Directive
The NGOs states that in addition to their contribution to pollution reduction and meeting the targets laid down in the Single Use Plastics Directive, deposit return systems for single-use beverage containers can serve as an “intermediate step towards more refillable beverage containers”.
Deposit systems for single-use and refillable beverage containers largely rely on the same infrastructure, they state, and consumers are more likely to choose refillables over single-use beverage containers if they have to return both types of packaging to the same return points.
Compared to single-use beverage packaging, refillables cause less greenhouse gas emissions, protect resources and support the local economy, they state.