Firms to pay for Swiss glass bottle recycling

Government announces deposits on glass bottles to shift collection costs to industry

The Swiss government is to impose a deposit system on glass drinks bottles, the country's environment agency said on Friday. Financing of bottle recycling had never been satisfactorily organised, the agency said, even though high recycling rates had been achieved. Imposition of deposits would shift the annual SFr30m (euros 19.4m) costs from local authorities to manufacturers and importers, implementing the precautionary principle.

To be introduced as an amendment to Switzerland's 1990 drinks packaging ordinance, the new law follows fruitless attempts to create a voluntary system for industry to fund glass bottle recycling. Deposits would likely be SFr0.05-0.07 per 0.7 litre bottle, the agency said, with the exact amount to be put at a level high enough to fund all collection costs.

All drinks will be affected by the deposit system except for milk bottles, the agency said, including wine, spirits and fruit juices. Now approved by the federal council, the new law is intended to enter into force on 1 January next year.

In a related change to existing law, the government is to replace absolute targets for volume recycling of drinks packaging with percentage targets and automatic introduction of material-specific deposits if they are not achieved. The target will be 75% each for glass bottles, aluminium cans and PET bottles.

In a related development, the new law will also implement the government's intention, first announced last summer, to abolish a more than decade-old ban on use of PVC in drinks bottles (ENDS Daily 4 June 1999).

Prohibition is no longer necessary, the agency said, because incinerator environmental controls have improved and PVC and PET bottles can now be automatically sorted at recycling stations. In addition, the European drinks market is tending to replace PVC bottles with "more environmentally compatible" PET.

The government expects some 300 tonnes of PVC bottles to be sold annually after the ban is lifted. A deposit system is to be introduced, which should achieve 85% recycling. This means that only 50 tonnes are likely to be incinerated, in comparison with the 20,000 tonnes of PVC per year from other sources burned each year, it estimates.

Correction, 12/09/01:
The Swiss government was proposing taxes on glass drinks bottles, not deposits. See EED 12/09/01Follow Up:
Swiss environment agency, tel: +41 31 322 7177, and press release

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