New deposit system! Since April 1st, a deposit of 15 cents is charged on all cans sold in the Netherlands. Empty cans can be handed in at about 5,000 supermarkets. There are also about 22,000 other collection points such as gas stations, NS stations and sports clubs. The measure follows the deposit on small plastic bottles, introduced in 2021.
DEPOSIT SYSTEM ON PLASTIC BOTTLES
Since July 1, 2021, consumers pay 15 cents extra for bottles of less than a liter of water or soda. Some 900 million of these bottles are sold every year. To prevent these bottles from ending up as litter on the streets or in nature, the deposit was introduced. The result so far:
More than 80 percent of all plastic bottles sold, large and small, are handed in for deposits. This is still below the cabinet goal of 90 percent in 2022 (Source: Statiegeld Nederland).
The number of plastic bottles in litter has dropped by nearly 70 percent since the introduction of the deposit system (Source: NOS).
POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENTS FOR THE DEPOSIT SYSTEM
Add more return machines.
Increase the deposit. 15 cent is too low an incentive for some people.
Make the deposit mandatory for all small bottles (producers are currently required to charge a deposit on water and soft drinks, while juice and dairy do not have to).
Accept damaged bottles and cans (in this way, picking them up from the street is karma + a financial reward).
Customize bins in public spaces, to accomodate for cans and bottles (see example below from Denmark)
According to Milieu Centraal, approximately 150 million cans were littered in the Netherlands in 2021. We are happy with the new despoit system and we hope from now on cans will be less frequently dumped on the street and in nature.
For those who want to hand in cans: don’t crush them! The bar code must be legible and a smashed can will not be accepted by the machine.
The ideal 2050 scenario: no landfills, no litter, minimised incineration, ownership of waste streams, legislation & harmonisation, and extended producer responsibility. It sounds fantastic, but how to get there? Circular Plastics NL tries to find an answer.
Together with industrial experts, the Circular Plastics Initiative created a cool roadmap for circular plastics. This visual represents the needed steps towards a future with circular plastics. The interactive website shows a representation of how this path would look like. There you find key elements that need our focus to make circular plastics possible. We summarise them below:
Design for/from recycling, e.g.:
What are the needed design rules and processes that have to be implemented/ used to be compliant to (new) legislation (for the various value chains and applications)
Modelling multi-layer mono-polymer process design and functionality for various value chains/applications
Chemical recycling, e.g.:
Efficient and effective separation techniques to deliver clean recyclates
Optimize the efficiency of pre- treatment technologies
Develop recycled material for multi-loop recycling
Sorting techniques, e.g.:
Assessment of needed characterization and sorting techniques for optimized sorting for the various value chains
Mechanical recycling, e.g.:
New and cheap in-line separation techniques for various types of mechanical recycling processes (film extrusion, injection moulding, blow moulding, pipe/ profile extrusion)
ABOUT CIRCULAR PLASTICS NL
On January 1st 2023, Circular Plastics NL started: an 8-year national growth fund program with a >€ 500 million total budget. Various companies and knowledge institutions work together with the Dutch government. Find out more on the Circular Plastics Initiative and join their plastics community op LinkedIn.
RECYCLE OR REUSE?
We agree with the listed priorities in the perspective of a circular economy, and many improvements are needed (legislation, new technologies, consumer behaviour, etc.). However, we wonder if prevention of plastics is also prioritised. Take for example, a plastic packaging containing 500 gram oats. We can switch to a plastic that is easy to recycle, but do we need that packaging in the first place?
Bulk stores offer good alternatives. Several Zero Waste movements have published plastic free guides. Reduce and refill first, then think about recycling! Or perhaps another government funded program tackles this? Leave your comment below.
Plastic recycling problems, an unpopular topic, yet something that needs to be addressed. Plastic waste may triple by 2060. Recycling is essential, but not easy. Even though nowadays many companies proudly present their recycled packaging, plastic recycling has many problems.In this blog we briefly explain you why plastic recycling is not the (best) solution. This is a complicated topic, which could be explained in multiple blogs/articles from different points of view. We tried to keep it short and simple.
Companies promoting their packaging made of recycled plastic
PLASTIC RECYCLING PROBLEMS
Poor working conditions. Most developed countries that are into plastic recycling do not do the job themselves. China used to be the main importing country of plastic waste, until the country announced an unprecedented ban on its import of most plastic waste. This resulted in a change in global plastic waste trade flow. Since then, most European countries transport plastic waste to Turkey, where it is recycled in factories. Unfortunately, many of these factories do not care about labour circumstances or environmental care.
In a recent Human Rights Watch report, it stated: “‘It’s as If They’re Poisoning Us’: The Health Impacts of Plastic Recycling in Turkey,” documents the consequences of the Turkish government’s ineffective response to the health and environmental impacts of plastic recycling on the right to health. Air pollutants and toxins emitted from recycling affect workers, including children, and people living near recycling facilities.
Image source: Getty images
Recycling stream is not clean. Non-recyclable materials being put in the recycling stream (such as liquids or plastic bags) that contaminate recyclable materials. A big part of recycled plastic is of inferior quality. The process of recycling is in fact often downcycling (read more).
Plastic recycling is neither economical, nor (very) sustainable. Recycled plastic sometimes costs more than new plastic because collecting, sorting, transporting, and reprocessing plastic waste is expensive. Even though recycling is better than landfill or incineration, but recycling in itself is not the most sustainable process. Lots of energy is needed for the process.
REFILL BEFORE RECYCLING
Recycling techniques must be improved and the chain should be beter inspected. But most of all we must reduce and discourage the consumption of plastics. Refilling is better than recycling! Check our post on The Zero Waste Hierarchy.
Can you get a water refill in Myanmar? Yes you can! Today we want to inform you about a promising new refill project, situated in Yangon, Myanmar. Last year, three ambitious students founded RefillMe. Starting small, dreaming big. We just met and immediately became fans. Sit back and enjoy our interview with Haling Min Aung, co-founder of RefillMe.
INTERVIEW WITH HALING MIN AUNG, REFILLME (YANGON, MYANMAR)
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your role at Refill Me Yangon?
Mingalarpar! My name is Haling Min Aung. I work in Earth Day Network Myanmar as an assistant manager, while also managing communications at RefillMe. Furthermore I am an activist educator in Yangon. I strongly believe that climate change should be taught in every school as the future of our Earth depends on our ability to take action.
Mingalarpar (what an amazing way to say hello)! Why and when did you start this project?
After completing an environmental studies program from the University of Yangon, we decided to tackle environmental issues in Myanmar by initiating projects. We initiated the first one, RefillMe, in November 2019.
So you already completed the first half year. We’ll talk more about the project soon. But first: who are ‘we’? Can you tell something about the team?
Sure! Other team members are my classmates from the environmental studies program. My teammate Aung Pyi Soe coordinates the RefillMe project and fellow teammate Ye Myo Zaw conducts the refill pilot in Yangon.
The RefillMe team
That’s nice. Many environmental projects (including Refill Ambassadors) start with only one advocate, and RefillMe already has three. What did you do with the refill pilot in Myanmar? How did it go so far?
The refill pilot is carried out to address issues and challenges faced during the registration process of public refill stations. It is successfully done in two townships of Yangon by using observational study as a means for gathering information. Currently, we are working together with Thant Myanmar to map Yangon (Thant Myanmar is a non-profit organisation, aiming to reduce the use and dependency on single-use plastics).
Refill station on the streets of Yangon
Refill station in Yangon Bakehouse
Very smart, we highly recommend people to team up with other NGO’s and (local) action groups. Together, we can create more awareness. What kind of bottles do people use when they refill in Myanmar?
Refillers use aluminium bottles, stainless steel bottles and polycarbonate bottles. Reusing PET bottles is also common in Myanmar.
TAP WATER IN MYANMAR
Mmm, just like we do in the Netherlands. Here we drink directly from the tap. How is tap water quality in Myanmar? Do local people drink tap water? Or do you drink with filters?
There is strict regulation for water quality that is supplied, however water quality varies from region to region. Factors like flooding, lack of safe water storage, old infrastructures and pipes affect the water quality. That is why people don’t drink right out of the tap. Households use filter or boil the water for consumption.
Water ATM, Yangon
Good to know. Another question: is there plastic deposit on plastic bottles in Myanmar? How is the plastic recycling infrastructure?
To our knowledge, there is no formal plastic deposit on bottles in Myanmar but you can get some cash back by selling plastic bottles to waste collectors. Recycling activities in Myanmar are carried out mostly by the informal sector, which includes scavengers, waste collectors, and waste dealers. These scavengers and waste collectors collect recyclable materials such as newspapers, books, cardboards, metal, plastic bottles, tin and glass from households, commercial areas and streets and in turn sell these items to waste dealers who clean and sell them to the recycling industry both locally and for export. We also have local plastic recycling start-ups and NGOs.
That sounds a bit chaotic but it can work. We think avoiding and reducing single-use plastics is better than recycling, but plastic-recycling can be useful to create new materials. And some people make a living out of it. We are curious to learn more about these recycling start-ups. And of course, to learn more about RefillMe, but we won’t steal any more time. Last question: what are your next steps?
We plan to look for new partners to facilitate our project expansion. RefillMe is more than just adding stations to reduce plastic consumption. Our team is using a more holistic approach to consider things like water quality, accessibility, affordability, and aesthetics which can help us accelerate progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 in Myanmar (clean water and sanitation). We dream about going beyond RefillMe project. Currently, we are working hard to launch two new projects in August.
Thank you so much Aung, we’re looking forward to hear more from you and your team!
STAY UP TO DATE ON REFILLME
Want to know more about RefillMe? Follow RefillMe on facebook or leave your message below. And if you happen to visit Myanmar, bring your empty bottle and pay attention to the refill stations. Join the #refillution!
All images in this blogs are provided by RefillMe.