The study examines existing measures and incentive schemes, which have been used successfully for products such as beverage containers, and identifies additional key waste streams that could benefit from such measures.
It is predicted that the implementation of measures such as deposit refund schemes, refundable taxes and buy back schemes would lead to a major reduction of littering and a significant reduction in plastic pollution. Such instruments are already widely used in the private sector, but have yet to be fully utilised from a public policy perspective.
According to Zero Waste Europe this study highlights the fact that, despite widespread support for the circular economy across all stakeholders, current fiscal policies continue to support a linear economy model. This is evident in the unacceptably low collection rates for textiles (<20%), cigarette butts (<35%), batteries (<40%), and even lower rates for other waste streams such as coffee capsules. Without strong economic incentives for collection, it is unlikely that these numbers will change.
Joan Marc Simon, Director of Zero Waste Europe, said: “The move from a linear to a circular economy will require changing the economic incentives. This study provides a great toolbox to double or even triple collection rates for a variety of materials, including waste streams with existing EPR (extended producer responsibility) schemes.”
Clarissa Morawski, Managing Director of the Reloop Platform: “Deposit return have been used to capture high quantities of empty beverage containers for decades. With more than 35 successful systems around the world and growing, maybe it’s time for governments to consider this economic instrument for their own countries or regions. Just look to the best practice programs and follow their lead.”
The study proposes a number of economic instruments to increase the collection and recovery of various waste streams including:
- A deposit system for mobile-phones: Proposes to complement the current EPR systems for WEEE with a refundable deposit applied on mobile phones in order to provide incentives to increase the collection rates of a product that contains a high number of scarce and strategic materials.
- A new EPR system for carpets, which would help increase the currently low recycling rate (<3%) of this waste stream.
- A deposit system for coffee-cups to promote the use of reusable cups, which will reduce the more than 15 billion units of disposable coffee-cups going to waste in Europe each year.
To achieve the ambitious goals of the Circular Economy it is essential to consider all possible measures. This study highlights the key steps that can be taken immediately, under existing legislation, to make Europe take a major leap forward towards a Circular Economy.
The full study “Rethinking economic incentives for separate collection” can be downloaded here.