Can deposit system becomes fact

With effect from 31 December 2022, a can deposit scheme will be introduced, according to a memorandum by State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven to the Dutch House of Representatives. She is cutting the knot ahead of schedule because the volume of cans ending up in the environment is increasing rather than decreasing. In accordance with the wishes expressed by, inter alia, the House of Representatives, the Cabinet decision on can deposits set down earlier will go into effect by the end of 2022. This will allow the sector sufficient time to prepare. The system will involve a 15-cent deposit to be added to each can, similarly for deposits on small plastic bottles. The measure is aimed at collecting and recycling the approx. 2 billion cans sold annually, rather than having them end up in the environment.

Ms Van Veldhoven: ‘The corona crisis is our Cabinet’s top priority. At the same time, I am continuing my efforts in other fields in the pursuit of a healthy and clean future. To achieve this goal, we need to do something about the approx. 150 million cans – some 25 Olympic swimming pools full – that end up in the environment every year. In addition to pollution, such cans also cause harm to animals. All this will be a thing of the past once the can deposit system is introduced.’

150 million cans in the environment

Last year, at the request of the House of Representatives, State Secretary Van Veldhoven communicated the requirement to manufacturers of achieving a minimum reduction of 70 per cent in the volume of cans in the environment over the course of 2021, vis-à-vis the average volumes over the years 2016/2017. Failure to accomplish this would entail the introduction of a deposit scheme. Legislation to this effect had been prepared concurrently and was endorsed by the Council of Ministers in October 2020. However, according to recent data for 2020, for the second year in a row the volume of cans has not decreased at all and has even increased by 27 per cent. Ergo, the trend is for more rather than fewer cans ending up in the environment. As this is at odds with the reduction agreed upon, levying a deposit on cans will automatically ensue. Taking this decision now will provide clarity for the sector and allow sufficient time to prepare for the introduction of a can deposit system.

Hotels, restaurants, cafés, and small businesses exempt

The exact locations at which consumers may return their cans in the near future are still under consideration. As is the case with small plastic bottles, the substantiation of the deposit system is up to manufacturers and supermarkets selling cans. The government is imposing several preconditions in this respect. For example, State Secretary Van Veldhoven has set down that hotels, restaurants, cafés, and small outlets will be spared, as they are also with respect to small plastic bottles. This means that they will be exempt from the obligation to collect cans, whilst the costs of the deposit system are borne by the can manufacturers.

Reducing street litter

As early as April 2020, State Secretary Van Veldhoven decided to introduce a deposit on small plastic bottles in order to cut down on street litter. With effect from this summer, 1 July 2021, small plastic bottles can be returned for a 15-cent deposit. With these decisions, Ms Van Veldhoven is putting a stop to a twenty-year political debate between advocates and opponents of a deposit system. ‘I have always expressed my firm belief that one way or the other, we need to achieve a radical reduction in the volume of cans and small bottles in street litter. The most effective method to combat street litter is altogether preventing people from disposing of waste in the environment. A deposit system appears to be the proper means to achieve this,’ according to Ms Van Veldhoven. With the can deposit system, the Netherlands is joining the ranks of such countries as Germany, Finland, Norway, and Denmark.