Environment Ministry authorises company to collect used packages

On Thursday, the Environment Minister, Milos Kuzvart, introduced a new project, which is expected to enhance recycling of used packages. Also this week a new regulation was introduced which makes it obligatory for retailers to buy back seven types of returnable glass bottles. All that is stipulated by a new law on packaging according to which producers and distributors of packages are responsible for the fate of the containers even after the consumption of their content. More from Pavla Horakova.

Until the 1990s almost all beverages came in glass bottles most of which were returnable. One had to wash out the bottles and bring them back to the retailer. On returning the bottles, people got back a deposit, which was one crown per bottle. After the fall of communism, large foreign producers entered the market and introduced plastic bottles which was something the country was not prepared for. The system of bottle returning completely collapsed in the mid-1990s as the ministry's spokeswoman, Rita Gabrielova, explains.

"It stopped with the emergence of the free market because all companies started using mainly plastic packaging and artificial materials. It came about suddenly and we almost didn't notice that something was changing on the market."

The country was suddenly swamped by discarded plastic. Glass bottles almost gave way to PET bottles and themselves became obnoxious waste because the system of collecting for refilling fell apart. Rita Gabrielova again.

"We noticed as a ministry that the system of returnable bottles is completely destroyed, so we decided to make a new law. Also the European Union asked the Czech Republic to produce a new law which would deal with packaging."

Better late than never as the saying goes. Now a flat three-crown deposit for glass bottles has been reintroduced and the ministry is hoping it will encourage people not to throw their glass bottles away. At the same time the ministry gave authorised a company which brings together producers and distributors of goods with non-biodegradable packaging to act as a mediator between producers and consumers. The company will distribute recycling bins for plastic, paper, glass and metal in places which don't yet have them. Then the company will collect the sorted waste for recycling and pay the communities in return. According to the Environment Ministry the project will be completed by 2005.