The issues of environmental protection, resource conservation and resource cycles have been of great concern to the EU countries since the 1980s and have shaped a great deal of debate and social argument. Even if the signs have changed many times, some of the questions remain relevant: How do we deal with our growing amount of waste, with our climate and with increasingly polluted land and seas? What must be done today to secure our tomorrow?
It’s all about the deposit.
use deposit system contributes to protecting the environment. The German one-way deposit system also contributes to realising the objectives anchored in the EU Plastic Products Directive, by collecting around 90% of all one-way plastic bottles separately and integrating them within functioning circulation systems by 2029. In addition, all non-returnable PET beverage bottles are to be made from at least 25% recycled materials, i.e. recycled plastics, as early as 2025. This can only be achieved with well-organised collection systems, because empty one-way beverage packaging that is not returned is often lost before it can be recycled.
Economy and ecology.
It is widely recognised that environmental and economic interests are not mutually exclusive, but mutually beneficial. The idea of extended manufacturer responsibility - first formulated in Sweden in the early 1990s (where the first Reverse Vending Machines for beverage packaging were installed) - has meanwhile become a global requirement and has also become firmly anchored in European legislation. In Germany, the Packaging Ordinance of 1991 created the first set of binding rules that relied on the producer’s responsibility and subsequently established the Cycle Waste Management Act of 1994 and all subsequent ordinances and acts - most recently the Packaging Act of 2019
One-way or reusable?
To this day, the advantages and disadvantages of the two parallel deposit and collection systems are being discussed in Germany. What remains undisputed: Both systems make an important contribution to waste avoidance and recycling, and in both systems the mandatory deposit increases social awareness of the value of reusable and recyclable material resources. Overall, they complement each other. From an environmental point of view, the goal for both systems must remain fixed on constant questioning and optimisation of the resources consumed.
Acceptance creates facts.
Overall, the acceptance of one-way products requiring a deposit - especially in the case of PET bottles - has increased significantly. While their share of the overall market was only 20% when the deposit system was first introduced, in 2018 more than half of all drinks sold with a deposit (52.2%) came in lightweight PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. Today, this is already 86.6%. Via the close-knit network of regional Sorting Plants and Reverse Vending Machines, as well as the direct connection to recycling processes, highly efficient cycles can be implemented by returning empty one-way beverage packaging. This can also reduce crude oil consumption and CO2 emissions. Find out more about these topics here (page 64 ff. - in german only).
One-way beverage packaging made of metal or PET from the DPG System can be collected almost unmixed by Reverse Vending Machines, then recycled with little effort and re-used, for example, as (food) packaging. The change from the linear to a circular economy benefits the environment and is also becoming more and more interesting from an economic standpoint. Of the around 18 billion bottles subjected to the mandatory deposit that were consumed in Germany in 2019, a large portion were returned to the recycling cycle – Germany achieves top values in Europe and worldwide in this respect.
The sorted, recycled PET bottle body, or rPET for short, satisfies the highest quality standards (food grade) and can be re-used as a so-called “fast-moving item” in all areas of food packaging that is subject to heavy use. This makes PET a very interesting recycling product. Because the higher the proportion of recycled materials in a “newly” manufactured beverage container, the better its ecological balance. By keeping recyclable PET in the food industry's circulation system for as long as possible, the PET one-way deposit system is transformed into a de facto multi-use system.
Did you know?
In 2019, 467.4 kilotons (kt) of PET beverage packaging were consumed in Germany. Of this, 44.2 kt are not subject to a deposit (9.5%), 406.1 kt are in one-way beverage packaging (86.6%) and 17.1 kt are designed as reusable packaging (3.6%). More information here (in german only).