VVD MP René Leegte thinks people should not get dewy-eyed about deposits on bottles. It’s nothing but nostalgia, he writes.
The deposit on bottles is for people who do not have a progressive environment agenda.
Deposits are a thing of the past, a heritage from the last century. Our great grandfathers drank lemonade from glass bottles and those bottles had to go back to the factory to be refilled. In order to make this happen, a system was thought out whereby customers were asked to pay a little bit extra for the bottle. The money owed would be returned when the bottle was handed in: the deposit.
A lot of time has passed since then. PET bottles are not going back to the factory to be refilled, they are being used to make fleece jackets, carpets, plastic crates or more PET bottles. That takes care of the logistical advantage that having deposits on glass bottles used to have. In reality, deposits are nothing more than nostalgia.
In order to have a future that is sustainable we need renewable energy sources. We also have to recycle plastics. Europe has set a target of 22.5% for the re-use of plastics. The Dutch target is 52%. That is by far the highest percentage in Europe.
In order to achieve this target, the VVD has handed responsibility for the re-use of plastics to the fizzy drinks manufacturers. They have told us they will have no problems reaching 52% and are even thinking of setting up an innovation centre, a recycling university, if you will. One of the things that would be looked into there is a way of developing packaging that will be easy to recycle.
The industry has one important question, however. It wants to determine how to get to the 52%. Government sets the norm but the industry chooses the means. The VVD agrees wholeheartedly. There is nothing better for people than to take on responsibility and then to be left to get on with things.
Politicians should keep to their role of setting clear and attainable goals, so the industry knows where it is. This makes for a stable investment climate and stimulates innovation. Where things start to go wrong is when politicians start interfering in how goals should be achieved. It’s usually a very expensive way of getting nowhere. And deposits are a means, not a goal.
So is there no hidden agenda on the part of the fizzy drink makers? Are they whiter than white when it comes to abolishing deposits on bottles? There is, and they’re not. The administrative system that comes with the deposits is paralysing the packaging market and frustrates innovation, as far as the shape and the raw material for bottles are concerned. The packaging of different brands cannot resemble each other too closely. But they are difficult to tell apart and that makes it impossible to allocate the deposit money to the right manufacturer. It also takes about a year to introduce a new bottle into the deposit system.
It’s a fact that the plastic content of 95% of all PET bottles is re-used thanks to the deposit system. That is a huge percentage and nobody will deny that it is. At the same time we must realise that only 5% of all plastics waste retrieval in the Netherlands is down to deposits.
The deposit system is pure nostalgia and doesn’t have a place in the innovative environment agenda of the VVD. The re-use of plastics is about the new economy. It’s about making a greener world. But if we want to do that we must stop this fear-ridden, stagnant harking back to the past.
René Leegte is the VVD parliamentary party environment spokesperson
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