Clarity about the Dutch anti-deposit plan

Amsterdam, 1 March 2019– The deposit system (in Dutch “statiegeld”) is the jewel of the circular economy. It ensures less litter, lower cleaning up costs, high return rates, better recycling, and is widely supported in society. The Statiegeldalliantie, with which more than 850 organizations and local authorities have become affiliated since October 2017, shows just how widely it is supported and what the benefits are.

Now the Plastic Pact, recently presented by State Secretary Van Veldhoven (D66), aims to reduce the environmental impact of plastic and to promote circularity. However, statiegeld as an effective tool is not mentioned even once in the Plastic Pact. The explanation must be that some companies which are strongly opposed to the introduction or expansion of statiegeld, such as Albert Heijn supermarket chain, would otherwise not have signed the agreement.

The Plastic Pact does state that signatories will develop “new, smart collection and return systems by 2020 at the latest”. This deadline falls in line with the objective set by the State Secretary March 2018. When, in the autumn of 2020, it appears that small plastic bottles are not 90% recycled and there is also no 70 to 90% reduction in small bottles littering the environment, the deposit system for small bottles will then be introduced by law.

What will these “new, smart collection and return systems” involve? In January of this year, Van Veldhoven sent to the Dutch Parliament the “ActiePlan NederlandSchoon 2019. Samen aan het werk om zwerfafval te verminderen” [Action Plan Clean Netherlands 2019: Working together to reduce litter]. This plan provides clarity on the approach advocated by the packaging industry. It was drafted by NederlandSchoon, which is financed by and represents the packaging industry. The plan is presented “in agreement with providing an alternative plan [for statiegeld]”.

In the past year, NederlandSchoon has selected four areas where container return logistics are being tested. These are areas in Zaandam, Rotterdam-Noord, Heerenveen and Meierijstad where extra waste bins have been placed with the motto “Flesjes in de bak, zo doen we dat!” (Bottles in the bin, that’s how we do it!). Passers-by and business owners are thereby encouraged to keep these areas clean. A monitoring program will show how effective this approach is. The four test areas together must provide sufficient insight into the effectiveness of the measures “to form the basis for a national expansion”.

What else does the Action Plan include? “A separate collection structure has been developed for the small plastic bottles that have been collected via the bottle banks. In the four areas, the bags with plastic bottles are collected separately and then sorted and recycled into new plastic products.”

This is essentially the “new, smart collection and return system” with which the set objectives will have to be achieved. However, it is neither new nor smart, but just passing old ideas off as new. In order to avoid introducing statiegeld, the business community presented a plan back in 2001, to place special waste bins at busy locations to encourage people to throw in their fast food waste, according to an article in the Dutch daily De Telegraaf in April of that year.


The plan is also not smart because it doesn’t work. In Rotterdam, measurements show that the extra waste bins placed there have no effect whatsoever. A headline from the daily Algemeen Dagblad in December last year stated: “In Rotterdam slingeren ruim twee keer zo veel plastic flesjes op straat als in de rest van Nederland” [In Rotterdam, more than twice as many plastic bottles are tossed onto the streets as in the rest of the Netherlands]. The call from Rotterdam City Council for fast-tracked introduction of statiegeld is now extra loud and strong. In Zaandam, too, there have been regular tests in recent months on whether any results have been achieved. Dirk Groot, also known as the Zwerfinator, has used the Litterati app to record and count all drinks packaging he finds on the street here. Despite the extra waste bins and despite all efforts to motivate people to put their bottles and cans in the special bins, the number of littered drinks containers here is above the national average. The number of bottles on the street has increased, instead of decreased.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation, says: “With beautiful words and vague plans we are shown the illusion that the Netherlands will be freed from littered bottles. These kinds of manoeuvers are not aimed at actually cleaning the Netherlands, but to frustrate the much-needed introduction of statiegeld yet again”.

Also read: England introduces deposit system with coca colas support