Plan for Deposit Return Scheme Launched in Catalonia

9th August 2017

A study on the technical, environmental and economic details of a deposit return scheme (DRS) in Catalonia led by ENT Environment & Management, in partnership with Eunomia and law firm Jimenez de Parga, has been launched.

The Technical, environmental, and economic viability study of the implementation of a deposit return scheme (DRS) for single-use beverage containers in Catalonia was commissioned by the Catalan Waste Agency and was presented to Catalonia’s Secretary of the Environment and Sustainability, Marta Subirà in July 2017. The plan examines the economic, environmental and social viability of the introduction of a DRS in the region, a system where a deposit is attached to a drink container to incentivise consumers to return them to vendors.

The report predicts that if an appropriate system was put in place, alongside existing Packaging Recovery Organisation (PRO), the DRS would result in:

  • The recycling rate of beverage containers in Catalonia increasing by up to 94.95%;
  • A reduction in littering of beverage containers from 1,280 tonnes, to 173 tonnes per year, and;
  • Municipalities would save 16.90 million euros annually, via reduced spend on waste collection, treatment and street cleaning.

The study also recommends the development of a System Operator and Administrator (SOA) to manage the DRS which would be funded by: unclaimed deposits, sales of collected materials, and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) charges from manufacturers. The organisation would pay retailers handling fees and cover costs of collection, transportation and counting and sorting centres. Authors also offer a breakdown of the volumes of material expected if such a system were in place, and what collection systems, along with their pros and cons, are available.

Other insights include recommendations of a voluntary labelling system where labels identify if there is a deposit on the container, its value, and whether it was purchased in Catalonia. Compaction or a change in container characteristics when returned is also recommended so a duplicate deposit cannot be claimed.

Flows of beverage containers & deposits

Diagram from the Executive Summary of the Technical, environmental, and economic viability study of the implementation of a deposit return scheme (DRS) for single-use beverage containers in Catalonia

Contributing author and Senior Consultant at Eunomia Tim Elliott said:

“There appears no reason why the DRS would not be able to deliver the benefits associated with significantly increased recycling and reductions in littering – particularly relevant in an area with large numbers of tourists consuming beverages on the go. The study indicates a shift in the burden of managing the beverage container waste stream and associated litter away from local authorities and onto beverage producers, which is wholly in line the principle of producer responsibility.”

Ignasi Puig, Project Coordinator from ENT added:

“The report has proved that implementing a DRS in Catalonia is technically and legally viable. The environmental benefits in terms of additional quantity of materials recycled has also been calculated, as well as which agents should contribute to financing the system. Now it is the turn of the Government to evaluate all these results and come to a decision.”

Eunomia has completed several investigative reports into the workings and impacts of deposit return schemes such as the Deposit return system feasibility study for Zero Waste Scotland and in its special report Measures to Prevent Marine Plastic Pollution. An executive summary of the report is available in English here and the full report is available in Catalan online here.