Lithua­nia’s bev­er­age pack­ag­ing de­posit sys­tem draws lav­ish praises, but con­tested in court

Baltic News Network - - News -

Few things in Lithua­nia have ever worked as well as the bev­er­age pack­ag­ing de­posit sys­tem. Although pretty new, it is sim­ple, nearly short­com­ings­free and highly pop­u­lar with the pop­u­la­tion. Put into ef­fect in the spring of 2016, it is also trans­par­ent – one can track the num­ber of re­turned pack­ages on the web­site graz­in­tiverta.lt As of past Wed­nes­day noon, the num­ber on the dig­i­tal clicker stood at an im­pres­sive 1 bil­lion 365 mil­lion 836 thou­sand and 861 pack­ag­ings.

«In­deed, the sys­tem has been off to a nearly im­pec­ca­ble launch, with the num­bers of re­turned pack­ag­ings be­ing be­tween 70 and 90 per cent, ac­cord­ing to dif­fer­ent es­ti­ma­tions. How­ever, the best in­di­ca­tor of the sys­tem’s suc­cess is can and bot­tle lit­ter-free lawns, forests and parks. Just a cou­ple of years ago, there was quite an­other pic­ture out there,» Linas Bal­sys, a Lithua­nian par­lia­men­tar­ian and for­mer chair­man of Lithua­nia’s Green Party, told BNN. Lau­ry­nas Vil­i­mas, direc­tor of As­so­ci­a­tion of Lithua­nian Trade En­ter­prises shared the no­tion, say­ing that the de­posit sys­tem works very well and it is ad­justed to the ex­pec­ta­tions of lo­cal brew­eries. He, how­ever, noted to BNN that the pack­ag­ing col­lec­tion costs are on a higher end in Lithua­nia.

«In ideal vari­ant, it would be good for all to have the de­posit sys­tem cheaper and func­tion­ing across the Baltic re­gion,» he said. Latvia and Es­to­nia are work­ing on a sin­gle de­posit sys­tem.

The de­posit sys­tem has also been ques­tioned over its ex­clu­sive, com­pe­ti­tion-free sta­tus in pack­ag­ing col­lec­tion sec­tor. Užs­tatas, a com­pany that has been long ap­ply­ing for li­cense for the kind ac­tiv­ity, was de­nied it cit­ing leg­isla­tive loops.

Since the launch of the sys­tem, Užs­tato Sis­te­mos Ad­min­is­tra­to­rius, ad­min­is­tra­tor of the de­posit sys­tem, known as USAD, has been staving off ac­cu­sa­tions of favour­ing large brew­eries, which as mem­bers of a brew­ery as­so­ci­a­tion, are among the founders of USAD.

Some smaller bev­er­age mar­ket par­tic­i­pants, like Kauen craft, Druskininku Rasa, Gu­bernija Ital­iana LT and some oth­ers, chal­lenge the de­posit sys­tem‘s ad­min­is­tra­tor in court, claim­ing it is favour­ing large brew­eries. The smaller play­ers were es­pe­cially an­gered about an in­crease of the fees for col­lec­tion and man­age­ment of me­tal pack­ag­ing. As a re­sult, they had to in­crease their bev­er­age prices.

The de­posit sys­tem cov­ers me­tal, glass and plas­tic bev­er­age pack­ag­ing that bears the ap­pro­pri­ate de­posit mark. Re­turned pack­ag­ing must be empty, with its orig­i­nal shape main­tained, its la­bels un­dam­aged and the bar­code clearly vis­i­ble. Whether the oneway pack­ag­ing is part of the de­posit sys­tem and can be re­turned to the so-called re­verse vend­ing ma­chines (RVMs), or taro­matai (this is how the ma­chines are called among Lithua­ni­ans) one can look up on the afore­men­tioned web­site hav­ing en­tered the bar­code of the pack­ag­ing.

Used pack­ag­ings can be re­turned through­out most of Lithua­nia via taro­matai placed in small kiosk-type an­nexes at larger food su­per­mar­kets.

Re­turn­ing pack­ag­ing in Lithua­nia is worth the ef­fort be­cause one can re­ceive 10 euro cents back for each piece at a till of a su­per­mar­ket or a store. If your shop does not have a re­verse vend­ing ma­chine but is part of the de­posit sys­tem, the pack­ag­ing can be re­turned at the till, where the de­posit will also be re­funded.

The found­ing mem­bers of Užs­tato Sis­te­mos Ad­min­is­tra­to­rius (Ad­min­is­tra­tor of De­posit Sys­tem, USAD), a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that is en­trusted with the de­posit sys­tem as in­di­cated in the Lithua­nian Law on Pack­ag­ing and Pack­ag­ing Waste, are Lithua­nian As­so­ci­a­tion of Brew­eries, As­so­ci­a­tion of Lithua­nian Trade En­ter­prises and Lithua­nian Nat­u­ral Min­eral Water Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion. The found­ing mem­bers re­lease more than 80 per cent of the pack­ag­ing cov­ered by the de­posit sys­tem to the mar­ket, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial web­site of USAD, graz­in­tiverta.lt

Ap­proached by BNN, Gin­taras Var­nas, direc­tor of Užs­tato Sis­te­mos Ad­min­is­tra­to­rius, said he sees only «big pluses» of the de­posit sys­tem.

«To our es­ti­mate, roughly 90 per cent of all cans and bot­tles bear­ing the de­posit mark are re­turned and pro­cessed through the pack­ag­ing de­posit sys­tem. As a re­sult, we have a much cleaner en­vi­ron­ment. Be­fore only third of 600 mil­lion bot­tles in cir­cu­la­tion would be re­turned to stores. With the num­ber now at 90 per cent, we’ve seen a huge im­prove­ment,» Var­nas ac­cen­tu­ated. Asked about pos­si­ble short­com­ings of the de­posit sys­tem, he hushed for a sec­ond be­fore ad­mit­ting that there have hardly been any. «It is very re­ward­ing to know that some of the eco­nom­i­cally ad­vanced coun­tries fol­low our ex­am­ple and seek our con­sul­ta­tions in im­ple­ment­ing the de­posit sys­tem back at home,» the com­pany head said. Waste man­age­ment spe­cial­ists from as far as Aus­tralia, China, France, Scot­land have vis­ited Lithua­nia and USAD with the sin­gle goal: learn more of the Lithua­nian pack­ag­ing de­posit sys­tem.

«Un­til now we were dis­cussing var­i­ous pack­ag­ing man­age­ment schemes. How­ever af­ter be­ing ac­quainted wth the Lithua­nian ac­com­plish­ments in the field we tend to con­clude that the de­posit sys­tem Lithua­nia has em­ployed is es­pe­cially ef­fi­cient to man­age used pack­ag­ings,» Siu Zhuisheng, deputy gover­nor of the Chi­nese city of Guang­dong with the pop­u­la­tion of 104 mil­lion peo­ple, is quoted as say­ing in a USAD press re­lease. The Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion vis­ited Lithua­nia in mid- July.

«Ev­ery coun­try seek­ing to in­tro­duce an ef­fec­tively op­er­at­ing pack­ag­ing de­posit sys­tem wants to see how it works else­where. Vir­tu­ally, one looks for a com­bi­na­tion of two things: who in­tro­duced it re­cently and where it works best. We can of­fer both,» Var­nas, direc­tor of USAD, says. «Al­beit our pack­ag­ing gath­er­ing re­sults are not the high­est yet, we how­ever suc­ceeded in reach­ing in­di­ca­tors over the last cou­ple of years that are un­sur­passed by any­body. Thence our re­sults are seen as a suc­cess story,» he added.

Ac­cord­ing to him, USAD reached sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones al­ready in the first year alone – the amount of pack­ag­ings col­lected and re­cy­cled was 6,000 tonnes of plas­tic (PET) pack­ag­ing waste, 1,500 tonnes of me­tal (alu­minium) pack­ag­ing waste and 6,000 tonnes of glass pack­ag­ing waste. USAD aims at 93 per cent col­lec­tion of pack­ag­ing this year, up 1 per cent from last year. At the start USAD aimed at 92 per cent bench­mark for 2020.

The full ar­ti­cle is avail­able on bnn-news.com

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