Not enough plastic bottles recycled, say environmentalists

Guess what percentage of plastic bottles are recycled in the Czech Republic? The answer - less than ten percent. Czech politicians are talking about increasing the level of recycling - but are their plans ambitious enough? More from Radio Prague's Ian Willoughby.

The Senate is currently considering a bill on packaging - meaning plastic bottles, paper wrappers and the like. The bill - proposed by MPs from the Civic Democrats and the governing Social Democrats - envisages the recycling of 25 percent of plastic bottles by 2005.

I asked Greenpeace's Jan Haverkamp why the bill wasn't aiming to increase the level of recycling more significantly:

"The reason that it's so low comes directly from the pressure from the packaging industry. Greenpeace has made a very clear stand there. What we want is in 2005 we want 50 percent recycling and in 2008 80 percent recycling, and I think also that within the Environment Ministry people are thinking in that direction but the pressure, especially from the mineral water industry - think of Dobra Voda and Mattoni - is very strong there."

A few years ago, some soft drinks manufacturers tried to get Czechs to use re-usable bottles. The customer would pay a deposit, which they would later get back - as is the case with beer. These days however you rarely see reusable soft drinks bottles. The drinks industry says people just weren't interested in bringing their empty bottles back to the shop. Don't blame the Czech public, says Jan Haverkamp:

"What happened here was that there also was not a very clear campaign in how you could bring them back and what that would do. Prices were relatively low and the impetus to do that was not very large. Coca Cola still upkeeps a small amount of reusable bottle. In the rest of Europe it works and it works in the rest of Europe because people have been pointed out the possibility. It needs a bit of advertisement behind it and that wasn't done here very well."

Critics say that the green lobby's demands are too high - higher indeed than European Union standards. It depends how you look at the EU, says Jan Haverkamp:

"They are higher than the levels in some countries, and in other countries they are already further in that - that's always a bit of a discussion in the EU of course, but I don't think the Czech Republic should orient itself to Portugal or Spain but rather to the countries around it. Czech people are not stupid - they understand that it's a waste to throw away valuable resources, and they also understand that in the end it will cost us more if we throw away these valuable resources."