The Czechs are among the best at sorting waste. But it’s time to take it a step further and start recycling properly. This is currently not happening at a sufficient level. The Initiative for DRS (“Iniciativa pro zálohování”) has presented a plan to achieve this. The way forward to real recycling is a universal deposit system for PET beverage bottles and cans. The Initiative for DRS was founded by major beverage producers Coca-Cola HBC Czech Republic and Slovakia, Heineken Czech Republic, Kofola Czechoslovakia, Mattoni 1873 and Plzeňský Prazdroj. The CEOs of these companies encouraged a joint call for market-wide discussion and support for the idea.
“The current waste sorting system works well, recycling less so. We need to move one step further, from sorting to real recycling so that the collected material can be reused in a closed loop,” says Kristýna Havligerová, External Relations Manager of the Initiative for DRS. “Today, while some of the PET bottles sorted are recycled and reused, a large number still end up in landfill or incinerators. Our goal is to achieve the re-cycling of packaging materials, where a PET bottle becomes a PET bottle again and a can becomes a can again,” explains Havligerová.
The introduction of the DRS has had a positive impact in many ways. The system ensures up to 90% return on PET bottles and cans, because the deposits are highly motivating and people return the backed-up packaging. The collected packaging can then be reused to produce new PET bottles and cans. Reusing the material for the same purpose in a closed loop is the best way to minimise its environmental impact.
The deposit system also helps to reduce the amount of waste lying around. People don’t throw away PET bottles and cans as much, and some people, motivated by the deposit, pick up the discarded ones and help keep public spaces clean.
The beneficial effect is also confirmed by an expert from academia. “Bottle-to-bottle and can-to-can recycling reduces the environmental impact and carbon footprint of beverage packaging. The direct participation of beverage producers in the deposit system will lead to an increase in the efficiency of packaging waste use,” explains the environmental impact of deposit, Vladimír Kočí, Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Technology at the University of Technology.
The PET bottle and can deposit scheme is currently in operation in 10 European countries. More than two dozen other countries are seriously considering or planning to introduce such a system. Slovakia is close to launching it, and will start running the DRS as of 1 January 2022.
When setting up a deposit system in the future, it is possible to take inspiration from abroad, but it is also necessary to think about the market conditions in the Czech Republic. The system will introduce centralized deposit of all PET beverage bottles and cans, which become the basis for the re-manufacture of bottles and cans. Customers will pay an extra deposit for each PET bottle or can purchased. They will be able to collect this against the returned bottle or can at any outlet participating in the deposit system in the Czech Republic.
Legislation is needed to introduce universal DRS. Several important steps are necessary from the moment DRS is enshrined in law: selection of the system administrator by the state, setting up the whole system, public education. According to experience from abroad, the preparatory phase can take about 2 years from the adoption of the relevant law.
“I have been promoting DRS in the Czech Republic for several years. I am convinced that the entire beverage industry has a unique opportunity to become the first fully circular industry. I am really pleased that we have joined forces with colleagues from four other beverage companies with the clear objective of supporting the introduction of full DRS in the Czech Republic,” comments Alessandro Pasquale, CEO of Mattoni 1873, on the support for the DRS system.
“DRS works in many of the countries where we operate and its positive impact is clear. It has improved the collection of material that we use for the remanufacture of beverage packaging. The introduction of DRS makes sense in the Czech Republic as well and we want our system to be among the best here,” says Dan Timotin, General Manager of Coca-Cola HBC Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“As part of our long-term sustainability commitments, we are focused on achieving carbon neutrality and 100% circularity of our materials, among other things. Sustainable management of the packaging we market is essential to achieving these commitments. We know from several other European countries where we operate that backing up has major positive impacts on the carbon footprint of our supply chain, but it is also the only solution that allows us to be truly circular. So let’s take a step in the right direction and move from sorting to true recycling,” calls on Andrea Vogliazzo, CEO of Heineken Czech Republic, to support true recycling.
“Before we decided to support PET bottles and cans, we evaluated different scenarios for sustainable packaging management. We consider DRS to be the best solution. It will sort out more used packaging. And most importantly, it will close the PET bottle and can management system. The used packaging will be made into new packaging,” says Jannis Samaras, Chairman of the Board of Kofola Czechoslovakia.
“Sustainability is crucial to our business. However, we cannot achieve can circularity without efficient management of used cans. Despite aluminium being a virtually infinitely recyclable material, cans now often end up in mixed waste rather than new cans. Introducing a deposit system is the obvious choice for us to change this situation,” says Dragos Constantinescu, CEO of Plzeňský Prazdroj.