Malta’s new ‘Beverage Container Refund Scheme’

(File: Famagusta Gazette)

VALETTA – An environmental initiative was launched in Malta this week, aiming specifically to boost the collection of single-use plastic, glass and aluminum beverage containers.

The Beverage Container Refund Scheme (BCRS) began operating on Monday, when more than 50,000 containers were collected on the first day.

The rules governing the beverage containers’ refund scheme were introduced in 2020, in part implementing a European Union directive on plastic packaging. Its implementation, however, took around two years until BCRS, a consortium made up of some of Malta’s largest beverage distributors and importers, got together to collect the waste they effectively placed on the market.

A spokesperson for the consortium told Xinhua that it hoped to collect and recycle at least 70 percent of its containers within two years and up to 90 percent by 2026.

To participate in the scheme, people need to take their single-use beverage containers to some 320 reverse vending machines spreading across the country.

Only beverage containers, such as glass bottles, aluminium cans and plastic bottles that are registered with the operator are accepted. And the plastic bottles cannot be squashed but with taps on. Tins and some glass containers are also accepted, but glass bottles of wine and spirits are not.

Furthermore, the beverage barcode must remain intact so that the machine can scan it and register the return of the containers.

Purchasing drinks in such containers now costs 10 euro cents (10.4 U.S. cents) more, in the form of a deposit, which can be reclaimed upon returning the containers to the recycling machines.

Upon recycling, people will be awarded vouchers which can then be used at any registered outlet to purchase goods. Over 8,000 vouchers were issued on the first day of operation, indicating that people had embraced the new scheme and the environmental initiative behind it, according to the spokesperson.

In the case of catering establishments, consumers are only charged the deposit if the beverage container is taken away from the establishment. If the beverages are consumed on the premises, the establishment, which keeps the containers can claim the deposit back when they recycle the containers themselves.

“I think it’s a great idea. It’s only fair that we pay for the waste we produce.” Jennifer Cardona, a mother-of-two said, “Returning the beverage containers means that I’ll be getting my money back so there’s a financial incentive too.”

“I hope that more people realize that this will contribute to a better environment so it’s in everyone’s interest,” she added.

Meanwhile, there are also some who are not so enthusiastic about the scheme: “This is just another tax under the disguise of an initiative in favor of the environment,” Jean Paul Borg told Xinhua as he stood watching people using a reverse vending machine.

“If it was really an environmental initiative, they wouldn’t have increased the price by 10 euro cents. They sell the material for recycling so the money should have been forked out by the importers,” Borg added.

Moreover, Borg said, these machines were not located nearby so people need to keep their containers at home and then get into the car to go deposit them. “It’s laughable.” Even the fact that wine bottles are not accepted is silly because that’s where most of the glass is, he added.

One of Malta’s main supermarkets, Welbee’s, sent a mailshot to its clients, announcing its participation in the scheme by housing a reverse vending machine on its premises.

In the meantime, BCRS will continue its educational campaign. On its website, BCRS said that through the campaign, it was encouraging the public to make use of this scheme to ensure Malta moves towards reaching a more sustainable way of living for everyone on the islands.

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