New deposit return system on drinks bottles faces opposition from local councils

Czechia will be introducing a deposit return system on plastic bottles and cans from 2025. The new system means people will no longer sort their drink containers into the large colourful recycling bins that can be seen on almost every street corner, but instead will return them to supermarkets or other collection points.

The environment ministry says that the new system will allow over 2.5 billion drinks containers to be recycled annually, meaning a significant reduction in waste and environmental pollution, as well as adding to the coffers of local councils. But not everyone is convinced. Pavel Drahovzal, deputy head of the Union of Towns and Municipalities, says that most local mayors are satisfied with the current system and don’t see a need to change it.

Photo: Czech Radio

“Many towns over the last few years have worked hard on introducing a door-to-door system, meaning a recycling bin by every house. So we don’t understand why we should now do a U-turn and abandon these projects, which the government and the EU supported, and say to people, ‘it’s good that you sort your plastic waste into those yellow bins, but part of what you’re sorting should now be brought to shops’. It seems to us that the state is going against its own strategy.”

Otakar Bačák, deputy mayor of Olomouc, says that he and his fellow city officials also have reservations about the deposit system.

Otakar Bačák | Photo: Město Olomouc

“The current system is capable of very effectively sorting rubbish for recycling and it seems to us to be a waste of resources to introduce a parallel system. As MPs we are supposed to represent and defend the interests of our citizens – well, in this instance, we truly are defending them.”

Eliška Olšáková, head of the Association of Local Governments of the Czech Republic, says that hundreds of municipalities have already signed a declaration refusing the deposit system.

“We think it would be far easier to strengthen the current system rather than introduce an entirely new system which would completely overturn the one we have in place now.”

However, spokesperson for the environment ministry Lucie Ješátková says that this is a misunderstanding of how the system will work and that it will not interfere with the current system in any way.

“The new system won’t mean getting rid of the current system and it won’t have a negative effect on municipalities’ budgets. We are also offering some compensation schemes to municipalities that will bring them a new source of income.”

Photo: Vladan Dokoupil,  Czech Radio

The precise deposit amount has not yet been decided, but at the moment the ministry estimates it will be around CZK 4 per bottle, the cost of which the customer would pay upon purchase. The deposit would be returned to the customer once they return the bottle, provided that it is undamaged and the barcode is legible.

The deposit return system will bring Czechia in line with EU regulations, and according to the environment ministry, will allow up to 90% of drinks bottles and cans to be recycled. In an attempt to get more citizens on board, the ministry is appealing to Czechs’ love of nature – according to them, plastic bottles are one of the most frequently discarded items of rubbish that end up littering the Czech countryside.

Authors: Anna Fodor , Blanka Mazalová | Sources: Český rozhlas , Ministerstvo životního prostředí ČR
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