14 October 2020 by Steve Eminton

Court of Auditors warns over costs of DRS

Deposit Return Schemes can support more ambitious recycling targets for plastic bottles “but come at a cost”, the European Court of Auditors has warned.

In a report on EU action to tackle the issue of plastic waste, the Court, which has reviewed the EU’s actions to tackle plastic packaging waste, highlights the Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive. This sets EU Member States collection for recycling targets for single-use plastic beverage bottles of up to 3 litres at 77 % by 2025, and 90 % by 2029.

The Court states: “DRS can also lead to higher quality and more profitably recycled plastics. However establishing a DRS can come at a cost, both direct and indirect, and can add complexity to Member States’ waste management systems. There are direct costs to creating and running a DRS infrastructure. The German DRS system is estimated to cost approximately €800 million per year to run.”

Recycled content

Germany’s DRS system ‘costs €800m’ to run

The Court report, published on 6 October,  notes that the EU has recycled plastics content targets – these are lower than the UK’s 30% level. It explains that Member States will be obliged to ensure that “on average 25 % recycled material is included in PET single-use beverage bottles placed on the market in their country by 2025”.


And local authorities can lose out under a DRS, says the study.

It comments: “The indirect costs of transferring PET bottles from kerb-side collection to DRS can also lead to a different distribution of the costs and gains in the value chain, such as a loss of income for municipalities that collect and sell the empty bottles to recyclers.”

On the actual cost of the scheme, one example given is for Slovakia. “The Slovak Ministry of Environment estimates that the DRS scheme operator will have an annual shortfall of €5 million (15 % of budget) for the operation of its DRS system for PET bottles and aluminium cans. Producers will pay an extra fee to cover this shortfall.”


On a positive note for DRS systems, the study says that according to the network of environment protection agencies, “Member States that have adopted this system collect on average over 80 % of PET bottles compared to the average of 58 % across the EU. Achieving such high levels of separate collection of PET bottles can help Member States reach the 2025 and 2030 plastic packaging recycling targets.”

Recycling rates in the UK for all plastics bottles, including shampoo and other bottles, are currently put at 59% by the British Plastics Federation, with 74% of plastics drinks bottles recycled, (source: British Plastics Federation).

Related links
European Court of Auditors report


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