Recycling bottles really does something good

Recycling - the fight against plastic waste: do you need a PET deposit?

Fight plastic waste: do you need a PET deposit?

Several politicians want to fundamentally change the current recycling system. Migros and Coop oppose a depot on Cola and Rivella bottles - for several reasons.

Switzerland is considered a world champion in recycling. Without any law. Anyone who throws their bottles and cans into the containers for recycling does so voluntarily.

According to the Federal Office for the Environment, the recycling rate for PET bottles is 83 percent, for aluminum cans 92 percent and for glass bottles 94 percent.

But could it be even better? 32 parliamentarians think: yes. Well-known politicians from left to right such as Bastien Girod (Greens), Andreas Aebi (SVP), Petra Gössi (FDP), Martin Landolt (BDP) and Kathy Riklin (CVP) have signed a parliamentary initiative by Alois Gmür (CVP).

They are demanding the introduction of a compulsory deposit for beverage bottles and cans. In the explanation Gmür writes:

In Switzerland, beverage cans and bottles are left lying on squares, streets and at the roadside.

A deposit would give this a value, so that it is worth collecting the bottles and cans and bringing them back to the point of sale.

In this way, Gmür believes that environmentally harmful throwing away and the amount of waste can be reduced. A compulsory deposit would also benefit animals, as they cannot distinguish between grass and PET bottles and cans lying around.

"They get sick from it and can even perish." Gmür, who runs his own brewery in Einsiedeln SZ, refers to other countries where the mandatory deposit has been successfully introduced in many places.

Sounds reasonable? Not in the ears of retailers. The retail trade interest group in Switzerland, to which Migros, Coop, Denner and Manor belong, vehemently rejects a mandatory deposit in any form. Today's recycling system has been working very well at low cost for 30 years, says a spokesman.

There are around 100,000 collection points in this country, half of them for PET bottles alone. According to the dealers, a mandatory deposit could jeopardize this system: “It would result in the establishment of a completely new recycling system with far fewer return points.

Then not more, but less would be brought back and the littering would be promoted, ”says the spokesman. A mandatory deposit is neither ecologically nor economically sensible.

Today every Migros, Coop, Denner and Manor sales point takes back PET bottles, says the spokesman. Local retailers collect 20,000 tons per year. The recycling rate for aluminum cans and glass bottles is even higher than for PET, said the dealer’s spokesman. That is why you refuse a deposit for these too.

The supermarket chain Volg of the farmers' cooperative Fenaco is also resisting a new regulation: "It would be nonsense to change something in such a success story," says a spokeswoman. The rally points would drop drastically.

«There would be no more collecting bins at train stations. Even in offices, schools, leisure facilities and at the community collection point, PET could no longer be returned. " Of today's 50,000 PET collection points, only around 7,000 retailer stores would be left.

The PET and aluminum containers are a thorn in the side of the environmental protection organization Greenpeace. One generally calls for a reduction in disposable packaging. However, a deposit should only be introduced if a higher recycling rate can be achieved with it.

Jean-Claude Würmli, managing director of the PET Recycling Switzerland association, points out the same negative consequences of a deposit as the retailers. He is also surprised by Alois Gmür's advance.

This is the identical parliamentary initiative that Gmür submitted seven years ago. This was clearly rejected by the National Council at the time.

There is no need to change the system, says Würmli. According to Würmli, a look abroad shows that countries with deposit systems also have problems with littering.

Littering is not a systemic problem, but a question of attitude.

It is therefore important to continue to make the population aware of the benefits of recycling. In addition, PET bottles are not the real problem. In fact, according to the Federal Office for the Environment, take-away packaging, cigarette butts, plastic bags and newspapers account for 83 percent of litter.

And according to ETH Zurich, the littering figures are stable or even declining despite a growing population and more on-the-go catering.

According to Würmli, the current collection system costs around 90 million francs a year. With a deposit system, the cost would rise to 290 million. The Federal Office for the Environment had already come to this conclusion when Alois Gmür made the first attempt.

There is a deposit system in Germany. For one-way bottles and cans, the deposit is 25 cents. According to official information, the collection rate in Germany is 98 percent for PET bottles - something Würmli doubts.

On the one hand, it is an extrapolation and not an exact measurement. On the other hand, the number refers to the total amount collected. In Switzerland, however, the 83 percent relate to the actually recycled plastic.

A deposit on plastic bottles - at that time still often consisting of the polymer PVC - was already available once in Switzerland. The minimum deposit was 30 cents, for large bottles it was 50. At the beginning of the 2000s, however, the dealers lifted it. The irony: In the message from back then, Migros wrote in 2002 that the response rate should decrease when the depot is closed. The opposite was the case.

But today, 30 cents would no longer be enough to achieve a steering effect, says Würmli. “Even 50 centimes would hardly make a difference if the shops were already closed in the evening. Hardly anyone would take their Coke bottle home from the exit and return it to the store the next day. At least one franc would be needed. "