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The Netherlands move one step closer to better separate collection of plastic

The Netherlands is closer to a better separation of plastic collections.

Dutch Environment Minister Stientje van Veldhoven announced on April 24, 2020 that the Netherlands will implement a 15-cent deposit refund system (DRS) for all plastic bottles less than 1 liter.

What is the deposit refund system? DRS is a system in which consumers who purchase products pay an additional amount (deposit), which will be reimbursed when the packaging or product is returned to the collection point. The basis of the system is to provide consumers with financial incentives to return empty containers to any store to ensure that they will be reused or recycled. For beverage containers, these systems have been operating in more than 40 regions around the world and have achieved good results (read more about DRS in our manifesto).

The extension of the current deposit system in the Netherlands will take effect in July 2021 and will be launched after 20 years of discussions on the topic, many empty promises in the packaging industry, and several attempts to reduce the amount of small plastics have failed. Bottles in the trash.

This week, we had the honor to interview Huub Scheele, a member of the European Zero Waste Committee, to learn more about this major announcement:

Hi Huub, can you briefly introduce yourself: How long have you worked in this field and what made you fall into (zero) waste?

During my work as an environmental engineer at Wageningen Agricultural University, I entered a world of zero waste by investigating garbage dumps. I initiated a working group to stop the export of hazardous waste to the infamous Schönberg dump in East Germany and stopped all these exports for more than a year.

Make love, don't waste

Tell us more about recent announcements? Which plastic items are included? What is the direct impact/impact?

Last week, the Minister of the Environment decided to provide a deposit for small plastic bottles starting from July 1 next year. Plastic bottle manufacturers will be responsible for the implementation of the system and provide barrier-free locations for bottle delivery, such as supermarkets, train stations, and gas stations.

Can you tell us more about the background in the Netherlands and what prompted the junior environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven to introduce these new measures?

For many years, the commercial and packaging industries have tried to break the existing DRS system and prevent DRS from expanding to other types of packaging. They use voluntary reduction agreements and use large budgets for public relations and manipulation research.

Under pressure from many NGOs and local groups, the minister made it clear that in order to avoid legislation and DRS systems, the packaging industry needs to successfully reduce plastic bottle waste. However, the set goal has never been achieved, so the minister finally decided to introduce a deposit for small plastic bottles from next year. They will also prepare the same process for cans, in case their waste reduction is not achieved next year.

We are seeing more and more countries implementing DRS in different ways in Europe. Based on your perspective and experience, how useful are such regulations in pushing a country further towards zero waste? Can this new regulation in the Netherlands become a successful example of other European countries?

I think DRS regulations are essential to get rid of single-use packaging and go beyond voluntary separation programs. Our country has had this situation in the past. I hope that the implementation of the mandatory deposit refund system in the Netherlands will inspire other European countries to do the same. This may result in a more coordinated system and will reduce plastic leakage into the environment.

What do you think are the main challenges that actually change the way we currently handle waste in the Netherlands and other regions?

Overcapacity and (not) direct subsidies to the waste incineration industry, as well as allowing easy dumping of waste for "beneficial purposes", will definitely not promote the transition to smarter waste management and the transition to a circular economy. On a less conceptual level, seeing a former Dutch Minister of the Environment employed in the packaging industry and becoming a lobbyist for the abolition of DRS, painfully showing the real agenda of the packaging industry, while hiding in the green movement such as "Clean Holland" "Behind" or "Plastic Hero".

Looking ahead, what impact do you expect from this new legislation, and what is the next step to make the Netherlands one step further on the road to zero waste?

I think the number of plastic bottles and tin cans will be greatly reduced next year. At the same time, companies will be very creative in avoiding legislation instead of making systemic changes as they did in the past. However, this major step forward in preventing more plastic waste will greatly stimulate countless Dutch voluntary garbage collectors who will remain vigilant and not allow companies to easily escape.

You can find more information about the declaration of the deposit return program here.

If you want to learn more about our work on plastics, please check out the Rethink Plastic Alliance and see our efforts to get rid of plastic

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