Dutch and Belgian NGOs join forces to end plastic bottle scourge

More than twenty organisations from across Flanders and the Netherlands have joined forces to call for the introduction of plastic bottle and can deposit schemes.

The ‘Statiegeldalliantie (literally: “deposit money alliance”) is asking governments to introduce deposits on all plastic bottles and cans to reduce littler and preserve resources.

Where they have been introduced, deposit schemes have saved local authorities money by reducing the amount of litter on city streets and country roads.

Deposit schemes shift responsibility to those ultimately responsible for pollution: the producers of single-use packaging.

Wide public and political support

In Belgium there has already been wide support for deposit schemes for a number of years, including from local governments. The region of Limburg supports the idea as the cost of cleaning up litter currently falls on the taxpayer.

A spokesperson for the Flemish environmental group Bond Beter Leefmilieu said:

“Plastic bottles and cans make up 40% of the litter on our streets, which isn’t even recycled. That’s why Bond Beter Leefmilieu supports the introduction of deposits for plastic bottles and cans. Because once something is worth money: people will no longer throw it away.”

Belgian consumer rights organisations Test-Aankoop and the KVLV women’s group have also expressed their support for a deposit scheme.

A Test-Aankoop survey of 1,150 Belgians also revealed that two thirds of consumers support for the idea. Ninety percent of Flemish people asked would be prepared to return cans and bottles after their use.

Last Friday the Belgian Senate passed a resolution calling for a deposit scheme to be introduced. The Flemish government’s environment Minister, Joke Schauvliege, has long supported the idea, but has given the drinks industry a final chance to reduce litter through awareness-raising campaigns.

The choice is clear

Figures show litter is increasing. A deposit scheme would reduce litter by 40%, increase recycling rates, cut clean-up bills for local government and ensure that producers take responsibility for the waste they cause.

While industry complains that the system is too expensive, campaigners say that additional costs are negligible.

In Norway, a comparable deposit scheme costs companies just one cent per pack: a small cost for highly-profitable drinks companies.

Minister Schauvliege is still waiting for the latest litter figures before decide what action to take. With elections approaching in 2018, members of the alliance say this is the moment of truth for a Flemish deposit scheme. Campaigners in the Netherlands also see 2018 as a crucial year.

Until then, members of the new alliance are calling on other city governments and organisations to join them to strengthen and spread their message.

You can find more information (in Dutch) on the alliance website here: https://statiegeldalliantie.org/