Companies from the food and beverage industry and the 4 organisations for separate collection and recovery of packaging waste announced that they oppose the potential introduction of a mandatory deposit system for disposable packaging in Bulgaria. This was announced at the first conference Separate Waste Collection in Support of the Green Economy.
The system for return of empty disposable plastic bottles operates only in 7 European countries, including Norway, Germany, Estonia and Croatia. Customers there take back empty plasticbottles and cans to stores – return them directly to the cashier or put them in special machines - and receive back their deposit.
The discussion was provoked by a statement for the media of Ivelina Vassileva, Minister of Environment and Water, about a forthcoming study of the potential introduction of a mandatory deposit system for packaging.The MoEW carried out such a study in 2012. The report analytically demonstrated the inappropriateness of this system for Bulgaria.Similar results were witnessed in Spain, where despite an extensive two-year study the system has not yet been introduced. “The reason why isits expected inefficiency," Juan Ramon Melendez from ECOEMBES said.
Nona Karadzhova, Minister of Environment in 2009-2013, pointed out that Bulgaria would not need to replace the model for separate collection of packaging waste which has been in operation for 10 years now, as it is successful.She presented solid arguments in support of her thesis. Eurostat data from 2012 show that:
- Bulgaria outperforms its goals for waste recovery and recycling and ranks eighth in terms of recycling of plastic waste among all Member States.
- In view of the waste generation indicators, Bulgaria records 5 times better performance compared to the average level in the European Union.
Ms Karadjova insisted that instead of thinking about changing the model, efforts should focus on improving the existing system of separate waste collection and reducing the weight of packaging and harmful substances therein. "Who would lose from the introduction of the system - municipalities, consumers, small and medium-sized enterprises, importers and food manufacturers, stores,"said Ms Karadjova.
Zhana Velichkova, chairperson of the BSDA (the Bulgarian Soft Drink Association), explained to the audience that such a decision would lead to a collapse in the industry. She justified the opinion of the business with the following arguments:
- Existing waste collection systems in Bulgaria achieve the same or even better results compared with deposit systems, but at a lower price.
- The European experience shows that the deposit systems make waste recovery 2 or 3 times more expensive per tonne. And that is disproportionate to the expected environmental outcome - a 4% to 7% increase in the amount of recycled packaging.
- The feasibility study of introducing a deposit system commissioned by the Government of Hungary shows that costs to be incurred would be 21 times higher than environmental benefits.
- The deposit system will result in new costs for businesses (retail chains and stores) for the purchase of vending machines, special bar code readers, packaging storage premises and transport;
- The introduction of a deposit system for separate waste collection creates a financial burden for producers- high initial investments - BGN 133 million for manufacturers in the food and beverage industry that must invest in changing packages (special barcodes, inks, etc.).
"If a mandatory deposit system is introduced for disposable packaging, this will increase the prices of drinks in plastic bottles, while for bottled water the price hike will be almost double," Zhana Velichkova predicted.
Todor Burgudzhiev, CEO of ECOPACK Bulgaria, presented the position of the four organisations for separate collection and recovery of packaging waste in Bulgaria. He said that to set up the current system of separate collection of packaging waste, BGN 108 million (excluding management costs) was invested in 10 years in the construction of 29 separating lines, the purchase of 62 trucks for separate waste transportation. "There are 2,200 direct jobs in businesses and over 7,000 indirect jobs in ancillary activities," Mr Burgudzhiev said.
Evgenia Tasheva from the For the Earth NGO said that if a new study is conducted on the effects of introducing the deposit system, there should be a thorough analysis of the environmental, economic and social impacts.
During the conference Krassen Stanchev, chairperson of the Institute for Market Economy, asked the people in power why thedebate on the introduction of deposit systems needs to be resumed although no new circumstances are available. "The introduction does not solve problems, it create new ones," the economist said categorically.
The conference organizers will prepare a reasoned opinion with all pros and cons on the introduction of a mandatory deposit system in Bulgaria and will provide it to the MoEW to facilitate decision making.
"It is important to consider well the effects of the possible introduction of a mandatory deposit system on the environment, the economy, businesses and society; we cannot copy blindly the experience of other European countries, Boyan Rashev, manager of denkstatt Bulgaria, said.