The policy landscape around resource management and circular economy in the EU is constantly evolving. Pressing global challenges like raw material shortages, energy market volatility, supply dependencies, escalating waste quantities and pollution require effective, holistic and ‘no regret’ solutions. Deposit Refund Systems are gaining increased attention around the globe because they seem to fit the description. While this is mostly true, like all other policy tools, they come with their own limitations which need to be understood and nuanced.

Five years after a first report on Deposit Return Systems for single use packaging, ACR+ publishes a new report to revisit its knowledge on the topic, understand the new developments and keep up with the ever-changing landscape.

The new report builds on its predecessor, emphasising changes at both the Member State and EU levels. By focusing on fourteen Member States with existing DRS, ACR+ provides updated data, exploring the effectiveness of deposit systems in reducing littering, and delving into their interaction with Extended Producer Responsibility schemes. The study also incorporates publicly available information on system results.

The report focuses on contributing to the broader discussion surrounding deposit systems, examining their potential and limitations in addressing critical issues like waste reduction and plastic pollution. While deposit systems enhance collection and recycling rates, they may not inherently align with waste hierarchy principles, often favoring recycling over reuse. The report notes that a limited number of deposit systems include reusable packaging in their policies, emphasising a need for a more holistic approach to packaging solutions. Additionally, deposit systems promote recyclable products and purer recyclate but do not guarantee packaging circularity.

The report acknowledges these limitations as areas for improvement rather than reasons to dismiss deposit systems as an effective policy tool. It underscores the need for better understanding the relationship between beverage packaging quantities and overall material and waste flows. The report calls for comparative frameworks beyond descriptive analyses to identify replicable structural elements in various deposit systems. Exploring the interaction between Extended Producer Responsibility schemes and deposit systems is deemed crucial for both systems' effectiveness.


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