Manufacturers evade deposits by making plastic cans and aluminum bottles

Amsterdam, 30 August 2019 – It is almost certain that at the beginning of 2021 a deposit will be introduced on small plastic bottles, but not on other beverage packaging. The objective of significantly reducing the number of litter plastic bottles in the environment can only be achieved by a deposit scheme. Soda manufacturers also know this. They are introducing packaging alternatives to avoid deposits: aluminum bottles and plastic cans.

Government decision Last June the Government’s decision on deposits was published. Ninety percent of the plastic bottles sold must be collected separately. If the manufacturers do not succeed, a deposit on small bottles will be introduced in 2021. According to the government, a deposit may result in a 70-90% reduction of small plastic bottles in our litter. Beverage cans, however, are excluded.

Fears of opposition and the environmental movement

The opposition in the Dutch parliament insisted on also placing cans under the deposit scheme. According to a recent count, aluminum cans have a 63 percent share in all the beverage packaging litter in the environment. Other types of beverage packaging are also left outside the scheme. When deposits are introduced according to the new decision, the deposit will be levied on only 19% of all beverage packaging found in the litter. The scheme is therefore ineffective in advance. But if a deposit is levied on plastic bottles and not on cans, manufacturers will put many more beverages in cans. In that case, a shift will occur and even more aluminum cans will be found in the litter than is already the case.

NVRD’s concerns

Not only the environmental movement fears this development. Also, the NVRD (Royal Association Waste and Cleaning Management) which unites Dutch municipalities, has expressed its concerns about this: ‘There is a considerable risk that in the coming years that many plastic bottles will be replaced by cans for which there is no collection obligation nor deposit scheme’. In its message, the NVRD also refers to the environmental movement that struck alarm ‘that cans contain not only metal, but also a plastic coating, which causes the litter of cans to spread plastic in the environment as well.’

Packaging alternatives

Beverage giants like Coca-Cola are under increasing pressure because of their contribution to the plastic soup and are looking for ways to reduce the use of plastic. One of these is the replacement of plastic by aluminum. Therefore, Coca-Cola offers, from September onwards, Dasani (spring water) in aluminum bottles in part of the United States. PepsiCo has announced to offer Aquafina (also spring water) in restaurants and stadiums in cans in the future. This trend has also been initiated in the Netherlands. Aluminum bottles made by Heineken and Coca-Cola have already been found as litter. Plastic beverage packaging is now also sold in the form of cans. These are plastic containers in the form of tin and with an aluminum lid including tab. Albert Heijn sells Drinklicious Strawberry Watermelon in plastic tins.

Missed opportunity

The NVRD calls it a missed opportunity that the possibility has not been created to introduce a deposit on cans into the legislation and now calls for ‘careful monitoring of the extent to which this

shift occurs and the consequences it has for litter.’ The NVRD expects the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to intervene ‘if necessary’. But these concerns are not shared by State Secretary Van Veldhoven (D66). She refuses to commit. Quoted in Trouw: ‘The first measurements do not yet show a shift from plastic to cans.’

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: ‘ Because the decision on the deposit scheme only concerns plastic bottles and no other beverage packaging such as tins, the government has opened the way for manufacturers who want to avoid deposits by using packaging alternatives. These are the types of packaging that we will soon find in the litter’.


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