The race towards Deposit Return Systems

by Chloe Schwizgebel | 14 September 2022

Last modified: February 2024.

More and more governments in Europe are deciding to introduce deposits on cans and plastic bottles. The pace has accelerated since the approval of the European directive on single-use plastics in 2019. The Single Use Plastic Directive (SUPD) stipulates that all plastic bottles must contain at least 25% recycled content by 2025, and that member states must collect 90% of plastic bottles separately by 2029. One Member State after another is therefore deciding to introduce deposits and thus combats litter and plastic pollution. In this article we discuss the decisions of governments and parliaments in European Member States.

Figure 1 – European countries where Return to retail-DRS has been introduced, voted on or is being discussed.

Decisions in 11 European countries since 2016


Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler launched the Austrian government’s 3-point plan to stop plastic waste on September 7, 2020  . The law on single-use packaging was adopted in October 2021. It provides deposits on disposable beverage packaging, PET bottles and cans.

On September 8, 2022, Léonore Gewessler announced that the deposit will be operational in 2025. The deposit amount will be €0.25 and will apply to all packaging between 0.1 and 3 liters. There is only one exception, milk, because of the risk of spoilage. Austrians will be able to return their empty drinks containers at all points of sale and receive a deposit back. This is also possible in train stations and container parks. “The goal is to design the most effective deposit system in all of Europe,” said climate minister Gewessler.

The Austrian government of conservatives and greens also wants to demand that from 2023, i.e. next year, 25% of drinks sold are sold in reusable drinks packaging. That figure should rise to 40% in 2025 and 55% in 2030. A Research Affairs poll in August 2020 shows that 81% of Austrians are in favor of a deposit on PET bottles and 76% are in favor of a deposit on cans.


Hungary has introduced the deposit system since January 1, 2024. The system is managed by the system administrator MOHU (MOL Hulladékgazdálkodási Zrt.). The system includes single-use drink packaging in metal, glass and plastic with a capacity of 0.1 liter to 3 liters (excluding dairy products). Consumers pay a 50 Hungarian forint (approximately €0.13) deposit when purchasing a drink in scope and all points of sale with an area of ​​more than 400 m2 must accept empty packaging. Many other points of sale also participate voluntarily and manually in the take-back system.


The Irish government of Conservatives, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Greens announced in September 2020 that deposits will be introduced in the third quarter of 2022. Despite a delay of more than a year in introducing the system, plastic cans and bottles can now also be returned in stores from February 1, 2024 . The system is managed by Re-turn .


The Luxembourg parliament approved the deposit law on May 5, 2022 . There will be one national deposit system for all beverage packaging placed on the Luxembourg market. The deposit amount varies from 10 cents to 1 euro, depending on the type of packaging. The amount of the deposit per type of beverage packaging, the detailed timetable for its introduction and the requirements for the organization of the sector are specified in a Grand Ducal Regulation.


In Latvia, parliament passed the packaging law in October 2019, which plans the introduction of a deposit system. It started on February 1, 2022 . The deposit system accepts glass, plastic (PET) and metal (can) containers filled with soft drinks, all types of beer and other alcoholic drinks (up to 6%). The system is managed by Deposīta Punkts.


Lithuania voted its deposit legislation for single-use cans and bottles in February 2016. The deposit is the same for all packaging and amounts to € 0.10 per bottle or can. The deposit system is managed by Užstato Sistemos Administratorius. The plastic bottle return rate for plastic bottles has been increasing dramatically : it was 34% before the deposit scheme, 74.3% at the end of 2016, 91.9% at the end of 2017 and 93% in 2018. Deposits were introduced during the Butkevičius government, consisting of Socialists, Liberals, Conservatives and Christian Democrats.


In Malta, the government signed the deposit regulations for beverage containers in 2020. The start of the system is expected in 2022, the date will be announced later in the year. The system came into effect on November 14, 2022. The deposit is 0.10 euros for all aluminum and steel cans and glass and PET bottles with a capacity of 0.1 to 3 liters. Dairy products, fruit juices, wine and alcohol with an alcoholic strength by volume of more than 5.0% are currently exempt from this system.

The Netherlands 

The Dutch Rutte III government decided in April 2020 that there will be a deposit on all small plastic bottles from July 1, 2021. The government of liberal parties VVD and D66 and Christian Democrats of CDA and CU expanded the existing deposit system on large plastic bottles to all plastic bottles. Beverage producers Coca-Cola Netherlands and Spadel Netherlands have shown their support for the expansion of the system. Since the deposit guarantees the quality of the plastic and sufficient recycling of PET, Coca-Cola has chosen the Netherlands as the second country where it will sell 100% recycled plastic bottles.

The instructions quickly gave results in terms of cleanliness. Only six months after the introduction of the deposit on small bottles, the Ministry of Rijkswaterstaat counted a 41 percent reduction in small bottles in nature between December 2021 and 2022.

Ultimately, after a unilateral announcement by the industry, the expansion took place on April 1, 2023. The impact on litter is already proven, in spite of some challenges faced.


The government of Poland decided on June 2, 2022 that there will be a deposit on cans and bottles next year. The deposit system applies to disposable and reusable glass bottles up to 1.5 liters, PET bottles up to 3 liters and aluminum cans up to 1 liter. There will be a take-back obligation for stores of more than 100 m². Smaller outlets will be able to join the system voluntarily.


In October 2021, the Romanian government decided to introduce a deposit system. Since November 30, 2023, packaging can be returned to any point of sale that sells drinks. The deposit is of be 0.50 ron (0.20 euro) and all beverage packaging made of glass, plastic and metal with a volume between 0.1 and 3 liters are included.


In Slovakia, the parliament passed a law in September 2019 that introduces a deposit scheme for PET bottles and cans from 2022. All stores with an area of ​​more than 300 square meters need to take back empty packagings. The deposit is €0.15. The operator Slovensko zálohuje manages the system. It immediately showed impressive results. In just one year, the return rate for returnable packaging has risen from 60% to 70%.

Government statements and debates in 9 European countries 


In Belgium there is a deposit on some reusable glass bottles, such as for beer. The debate about the introduction of deposits on cans and plastic bottles has been going on for more than ten years. In Belgium, deposits are the responsibility of the regions of Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia. In 2018, the industry was given a last chance to tackle the growing litter with awareness and fines. However, the amount of litter is still growing.

In 2017 and 2018, hundreds of municipalities, companies and organizations joined the Deposit Alliance, which asks regional governments to quickly introduce deposits for all cans and plastic bottles. In 2019, the new governments of Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia wrote the possible introduction of deposits in their coalition agreements. In 2021, more than 100 Walloon municipalities and 200 Flemish municipalities are part of the Deposit Alliance. The opposition parties in Flanders (Vooruit and Groen) and Wallonia (Les Engagés) put proposals on the table of their respective parliaments to introduce such a system. Walloon Environment Minister Céline Tellier (Ecolo) launched a study into the implementation of deposits in 2022. In the summer of 2022, the municipality of Bredene conducted a successful pilot project with deposits. On September 6, 2022, the Environment Minister of Flanders, Zuhal Demir (N-VA), said that deposits are unavoidable and that the Flemish government will decide in 2022 based on the latest figures on litter.

The new accreditation 2024-2028 of the PRO responsible for household waste management (Fost Plus) provides for the introduction of a deposit system for all cans and bottles, under cover of an agreement between the three regions (article 2).


In May 2021, the Eunomia research group and the Association of Greek Packaging Manufacturers called on the Greek government to introduce a deposit system in the country. Greece has committed to introducing a national deposit system from July, 2023, as part of the new national legislation on waste, recycling and circular economy.


In France, Minister Brune Poirson (of the liberal party En Marche) stated on July 10, 2019 that the French government wants to introduce deposits on plastic bottles and cans. She received the support of French supermarkets and beverage manufacturers, including multinationals that are also active in Belgium and the Netherlands. Due to pressure from conservative mayors in the French Senate, the project has been postponed until 2023. The introduction of a DRS for reusable drinks has been announced in July 2023, a decree proposition is currently discussed in the Parliament. At the same time, DRS for recycling has been postponed by the previous Minister of the Environment Christophe Béchu in September 2023.


A partnership of non-governmental organizations National Association of Comuni Virtuosi, Greenpeace Italia, Oxfam, WWF Italia and Zero Waste Italy, has joined forces to support the introduction of a mandatory national deposit system for beverage packaging in Italy. The campaign, entitled “ Buon Rendere – molto più di un vuoto “, is the first national initiative for a deposit system in Italy. In November 2021, they made a joint appeal to the Draghi government and to Roberto Cingolani, the Italian Minister for Ecological Transition, to accelerate the introduction of an effective deposit system in the country.


A pilot project for a nationwide deposit system was launched in Portugal in March 2020 with the support of the Portuguese food industry and beverage manufacturers. The government has introduced the legal decree providing for the introduction of a deposit system by 2022. However, no decision has yet been made on the practical aspects of this introduction. The Marine Environment Research Association has launched a petition asking the government to introduce the deposit system quickly and effectively.


The director of the Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Filip Radović, has announced that the introduction of a deposit system in Serbia to regulate the return and disposal of packaging waste could be discussed in 2019. Although the topic of deposits has been on the table for many years, no decision has been made so far.


Slovenian Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak supported environmental NGO Eko Krog’s proposal to introduce a deposit system in 2021. The association of beverage manufacturers supports the proposal because the system will ensure better separate collection of beverage bottles.


In Spain, in December 2021, a large majority of Congress voted in favor of the Ley de residuos, the law introducing deposits. The law is now on the table of the Senate.

United Kingdom

At the level of the United Kingdom, the government of Theresa May (Conservatives) announced a deposit scheme for drinks containers in March 2018. The Blue Planet II series had brought attention to the threat of ocean pollution. In July 2019, the British government stated that it is targeting 2023 to have a fully functioning deposit system. A poll by Populus in June 2020 shows that 84% of Britons are in favor of a deposit on all drinks packaging.

The government of Scotland led by Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party announced in May 2019 the plan to introduce deposits on plastic bottles, glass bottles and cans . The Scottish Parliament voted in favor of the deposit scheme in May 2020. It is scheduled to start in August 2023. The system covers all drinks sold in PET plastic, metal and glass. There will be a fixed deposit of 20 pence (0.23 euros) for all formats.

In January 2023, details of the introduction of the deposit system in the United Kingdom, Wales and Northern Ireland were revealed. The systems in each region must be in place by October 1, 2025. All PET bottles and aluminum and steel cans will be included in the system (between 50 ml and 3 liters). Glass bottles will only be included in the Welsh system. The points of sale must take back the packaging placed on the market (take-back obligation).

Eight European countries that have had deposits for some time


In Croatia, since 2006, there has been a deposit of 0.5 Croatian Kuna on non-refillable containers with a minimum volume of 200 ml. Retailers larger than 200 m² are obliged to take back containers. The government administers the scheme. There is a collection target of 95%. Since 2015, deposits have returned 90% of all non-refillable packaging on the Croatian market.


Denmark introduced the first national deposit system in 1922. In 1991 and 1993 it expanded to include plastic bottles. Dansk Retursystem , a private non-profit organization manages the system. In 2019, the system achieved a total efficiency of 92%.


Estonia has had a universal deposit and recycling system for single-use and refillable packaging since 2005. The deposit is €0.10 on most metal, plastic and glass beverage containers. The system is managed by Eesti Pandipakend , a producer responsibility organization representing the Estonian Association of Brewers, the Association of Producers of Soft Drinks, the Association of Importers of Soft Drinks and Beer and the Estonian Association of Retailers.


Finland first introduced the deposit system in 1952 on glass bottles – at the same time as the Summer Olympics that brought Coca-Cola to the country – in glass bottles. In the 1980s, some reusable and sustainable plastic bottles were included in the deposit system. Deposits were introduced on aluminum cans in 1996, on PET bottles in 2008 and on recycled glass bottles in 2012. Suomen palautuspakkaus Oy (abbreviated Palpa), a private consortium of beverage importers and manufacturers, runs the system.


In Germany, the deposit system has been in place for seventeen years , since 2003. There is a deposit on plastic, cans and glass beverage containers. The standard deposit amount has been 0.25 euros since 2016. The deposit is higher for disposable packaging than for reusable packaging, such as glass bottles. 97 to 99% of single-use bottles are returned. The recycling rate of tin is approximately 99% . In January 2021, the German government of Angela Merkel (CDU – SPD – CSU) approved a new Packaging Law , Verpackungsgesetz . The deposit on packaging of juices and alcoholic drinks has been in force since January 2022 and will be extended to dairy products in 2024 . Germany has had a deposit ( Pfand ) on plastic bottles and cans for a long time , since 2003. But juices, wine and milk were excluded. The new Packaging Act therefore only looks at the packaging, and not at what drinks it contains.


Iceland has had a national-scale deposit system for plastic, aluminum and glass beverage containers since 1989 .


Norway adopted a deposit law in 1999. In 2018, rates increased to NOK 2 for small bottles and cans and NOK 3 for large bottles. Infinitum AS (formerly Norsk Resirk) is responsible for implementing the national recycling program for non-refillable plastic bottles and beverage cans. The non-profit organization was founded in 1999. It is owned by companies and organizations in the beverage and food industries.

The Norwegian system works in such a way that the environmental burden decreases as the return increases. This means that, for example, a 90 percent return for cans translates into a 90 percent discount on environmental taxes.


In Sweden, aluminum cans have had a deposit system since 1984 and PET bottles since 1994. Pantamera is responsible for the deposit system for aluminum cans and PET bottles.

The race for deposits 

We can therefore speak of a real race for deposits. The debate about plastic pollution is happening everywhere. The Member States of the European Union are working hard on legislation to do something about it. The pace varies from country to country, but the direction is the same.

The popularity of deposits is also increasing at the borders of the European Union. In January 2019, Turkey decided to introduce a deposit on all beverage containers within four years. With 80 million inhabitants, Turkey will be the second largest deposit country in the world after Germany.

As part of the revision of the European Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), the mandatory introduction of a deposit by 2029 is being discussed, along with essential features. This obligation would apply to all countries failing to achieve a certain return rate. The final version of the decision is still awaited (info March 2024).

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