Slovakia’s deposit return system for cans and plastic bottles seeks to address beverage container litter and meet European Union targets for the collection of plastic beverage bottles. Approximately 1.3 billion drink containers are sold each year in Slovakia. The country is seeking to collect at least 60% of eligible containers for recycling by the end of 2022, and 90% by 2025. This would put Slovakia four years ahead of the targets in the European Union’s Single-Use Plastics Directive, which requires member states to separately collect 90% of single-use plastic bottles by 2029.
Container deposit return systems work by adding a deposit on top of the price of a beverage – such as those in plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans – which is refunded to the consumer when they return the empty bottle or can for recycling. As such, it is like buying the beverage, but borrowing the container. These programs are also known as container deposit systems or bottle bills, and are typically established through legislation passed by state or national governments.
The deposit return system in Slovakia will use a “return-to-retail” infrastructure, whereby containers are returned for recycling to the grocery stores typically selling beverages. Their deposit system will see the installation of around 1700 reverse vending machines – an automated way to collect, sort and handle the return of used drink containers – and both mandatory and voluntary collection points across approximately 2000 stores in Slovakia. A recent survey showed that almost 86% of people in Slovakia were positive to the local deposit return system legislation.