24 February 2024, by Abi Carter

Cans and small drinks bottles in the Netherlands come with a 15-cent deposit (Statiegeld), which in theory is given back to the purchaser when they return them to a collection point. However, according to a recent report from AD, more than 133 million euros’ worth of deposits went uncollected between January 2022 and July 2023. Critics of the law argue that change is needed. 

Nearly 800 million plastic bottles not returned in the Netherlands

Data requested by AD showed that between January 2022 and July 2023, 152 million large plastic bottles and 635 million small plastic bottles were not returned to collection points. The deposits paid on these bottles – amounting to some 133 million euros – were therefore not paid back to consumers, and instead went into the company managing the Statiegeld system in the Netherlands, the Packaging Waste Fund. 

Those figures don’t even take into account the number of unreturned cans, which have also been subject to deposits since April 2023. Speaking to AD, Rob Buurman of the environmental organisation Recycling Netwerk Benelux estimated that the total value of unreturned deposits each year was likely around 250 million euros. 

Critics say more Statiegeld deposit machines are needed

While the uncollected deposits are in theory fed back into the scheme and used to optimise the system – for instance by adding new collection points and making it easier for consumers to return their bottles and cans – critics are saying that work needs to be done. Legally, the Waste Fund is obliged to collect 90 percent of Statiegeld bottles and cans. 

Last year, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) issued a warning to businesses, saying they needed to expand collection infrastructure. For example, in December 2022 it was announced that new collection machines would be installed at gas stations and train stations across the country, but according to AD so far there are only 40 deposit machines outside of supermarkets in the Netherlands, including just five at NS train stations, and a single, lonely machine at a petrol station

Until now, the system has mainly relied on businesses voluntarily setting up their own collection points, for instance at sports clubs and cinemas, but data shows that, where these exist, they are rarely used. 96,4 percent of all plastic bottles are returned via collection points in supermarkets. Businesses have now announced they will install 2.600 new collection machines by 2026. 

Image credit: Sirozy / Shutterstock.com

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