The Belgian coastal city of Bredene did this summer a one-month pilot with a 0.20 € deposit return system for cans and plastic bottles in collaboration with its beach clubs. The results are clear: more than 77% of the cans and plastic bottles sold with a deposit were returned. None of them were found on the beach.
The deposit on bottles and cans shows itself as an effective measure against litter. The pilot project ran for a full month from 15 July to 15 August 2022. In Bredene, the Twins Club and beach bars sold their plastic bottles and cans with an additional 0.20€ deposit, clearly visible thanks to a sticker placed on them. Consumers could then manually return the packaging and redeem their deposit at each of the three locations which would then put the empty packaging in a box. Simple and effective.
The results are clear. More than 6,000 packaging with the deposit sticker was sold. At the end of the pilot, 77.20% of the cans and plastic bottles with a sticker were returned. The results surpassed the expectations of the municipality, which expected a return rate of 50 to 70%.
Even more important, not a single packaging with a deposit was found on the beach during this period. Indeed, Proper Strandlopers organized two clean-up campaigns to monitor the evolution of litter on the beach during the project. And no packaging with a sticker was found, clearly showing that the deposit reduces drastically the amount of packaging among litter.
This result is in line with the proven effect that a deposit has on litter in other countries. In the Netherlands, the recent monitoring of Dirk de Groot indicates a decrease of 80% of the amount of small plastic bottles in litter, one year after the introduction of the deposit on small plastic bottles. Bredene’s pilot confirmed this impact also in Belgium.
As pointed out by one of the operators of the beach bar Blauwe Brug on Flemishpublic broadcaster VRT, not a single consumer complained about the presence of a deposit on the drinks. This underscores again the large acceptance of the deposit system among consumers. According to several polls (Test-Aankoop, GfK) consumers all over Belgium are in favor of the introduction of a deposit on plastic bottles and cans in order to reduce litter. This pilot project shows that they not only accept the concept of a deposit, they are also actively taking part in it.
The problem of litter in Belgium has become pressing in the past few years. In Flanders, the government has requested the industry to decrease litter by 20% in 2022, compared to 2015. This decrease is based on the lowest impact expected for a deposit return system according to the analysis of impact made by the official Flemish agency OVAM in 2015. The latest monitoring in 2019 showed an increase of about 14%. While the industry is still reluctant to introduce a DRS, the interest for this system is growing among citizens and municipalities. 70,7% of Flemish municipalities have now joined the Statiegeldalliantie, an alliance that asks the regional governments of Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia to introduce deposits on cans and plastic bottles
Given the clear results and the large support of the pilot project, it becomes clear that a deposit is the most effective way to reduce litter in Belgium. As Bredene mayor Steve Vandenberghe states “the introduction of a deposit is a solution, and perhaps the only one, to reduce litter”. This pilot project shows that, in Belgium too, a deposit return system will have a definite and a clearly positive impact on litter.