Deposits on plastic bottles and cans and a ban on single-use plastic products: responses from our partners

Small plastic bottles and cans of soft drinks to quench our thirst when we’re in a hurry: the waste they create is a major source of frustration for many citizens and environmental organizations. The same goes for other single-use disposable products, such as plastic straws and cotton buds. This month significant steps have been taken towards reducing the pollution of these products. However, our partners still have some reservations about this good news.

Ban on certain single-use plastic products

No more plastic straws in your milkshake or disposable plastic cups at a party: the European ban on certain plastic products for single use came into force on 3 July. This Single-Use Plastic (SUP) Directive is a major achievement for our partners in Brussels. Existing stocks can still be sold, so despite the new rules we’ll continue to see these plastic polluters in shops, bars and restaurants for some time. After 2021, extra measures will be introduced: manufacturers will have to contribute to the cost of collecting rubbish and cleaning up litter.

“Pointless plastics will keep feeding the plastic soup” 

The Plastic Soup Foundation applauds the legislation, but is disappointed in the Dutch government which has decided on a ‘strict implementation’ of the SUP Directive. “This means minimal implementation. As a result, pointless plastics like fireworks containing plastic and plastic confetti will still keep feeding the plastic soup for years.” The Plastic Soup Foundation answers pressing questions about the Directive in a special ‘SUP file’.
Zero Waste Europe already expressed reservations about the ambitions of the SUP Directive during the early stages of the development of this legislation. Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director: “In order to avoid material substitution and obtain a real impact on the economy and the environment in the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission should implement an approach to products and waste that is not only material specific but also system oriented.” The organization points out the risk that single-use plastic products will simply be replaced by a different material with a similarly high environmental impact. This can be avoided if other changes to the system, such as product reuse, are incorporated.

Deposits on small bottles and cans

Every year, around 200 million bottles and cans end up in the environment. This equates to four garbage trucks full of bottles and five garbage trucks full of cans ending up in nature every single day (source: Statiegeldalliantie). Deposits reduce the number of bottles and cans in the environment by 70 to 90 percent, according to research by CE Delft. So the introduction of a deposit on plastic bottles in the Netherlands on 1 July is important news. Deposits on cans will take a little longer: they are due to be introduced on 31 December 2022.

“More responsibility for the manufacturers of plastic”

Merijn Tinga, otherwise known as the Plastic Soup Surfer: ‘’The introduction of a deposit on bottles smaller than 1 liter primarily signifies a shift in society’s thinking about the solution to the problem of plastic waste. A shift towards more responsibility for the manufacturers of plastic.” The Plastic Soup Surfer website shows a timeline: from the first motion to reduce plastic bottles by 90 percent within three years up to the moment when Secretary of State Van Veldhoven decided to require a deposit on plastic bottles.
Stichting De Noordzee: “Every year, together with thousands of volunteers, we clean up the entire Dutch coast. Plastic bottles and caps are among the most commonly found waste. Hopefully the introduction of a deposit will soon change this!”
According to Suze Govers, campaign and project coordinator at Recycling Netwerk Benelux, nature will benefit greatly from deposits on cans: “When cans end up in animal feed as part of the mowing process, this can lead to livestock getting sick and sometimes even dying. It has recently been shown that cans contain plastic, which is released into nature as the can decays.”

Delaying tactic for deposit on cans

Consumers are supposed to be able to return cans to supermarkets from 31 December 2022. However, on 6 July, the sector organization representing supermarkets and the umbrella organization for the food industry announced that they “are going to research a collection system for cans with national coverage at locations other than supermarkets”. Many organizations, including our partners Recycling Netwerk Benelux, Plastic Soup Surfer, Plastic Soup Foundation, Natuur & Milieu and Stichting De Noordzee, believe that setting up such an entirely new system, in addition to the existing deposit refunds system, will be unnecessarily complicated, inconvenient and much more expensive than adding the cans to the existing system in supermarkets.

“Supermarkets run out of time”

Rob Buurman, director of Recycling Netwerk Benelux: “When the supermarkets run out of time due to their own complicated procedure, they will exploit this situation to ask for deposits on cans to be put off again. So this is just yet another delaying tactic of the kind we have seen so many times during the campaign for the introduction of deposits.”

About this program

We are dedicated to gaining better insight into the causes and effects of pollution and how it impacts our health. We are also looking for solutions that will address the pollution problem at the source, and which offer potential alternatives for switching to sustainable means of production and consumption patterns. We encourage the conversion of these solutions to both policies and practice. For more information on this, read our Annual Report 2020.

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