tomra plastic recycling
Recycling technology provider Tomra says it has identified common characteristics of successful “bottle bill” programs.
Photo supplied by Tomra.

Tomra spells out key bottle bill system traits

Reverse vending machine maker says convenience and a “meaningful deposit” level are critical.

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January 27, 2021

Norway-based Tomra, a maker of reverse vending machines (RVMs) and recycling-related sorting equipment, says it has identified four success factors held in common by “the world’s highest-performing deposit and return systems (DRSs) for can and bottle recycling.” DRSs are often referred to as “bottle bill” programs in the United States.

The company has issued a 68-page white paper titled “Rewarding Recycling: Learnings from the World’s Highest-Performing Deposit Return Systems.” The document, according toTomra, delves into what makes a high-performing system so “stakeholders can better understand why some deposit systems are succeeding, while others fail.”

The company says its 45-year presence in the RVM market has provided it with “unique first-hand insight into the workings of different systems,” prompting Tomra to evaluate DRS models against what it calls key metrics, including cost efficiency and the percentage of containers returned for recycling.

Tomra says it found the most effective deposit systems share four principles in common:

  • performance -- a collection target for all beverage containers plus a meaningful deposit delivers strong results;
  • convenience -- the redemption system is easy, accessible and fair for all users;
  • producer responsibility -- producers finance and invest in the system using the unredeemed deposits, commodity revenues and an “eco-modulated” extended producer responsibility (EPR) fee; and
  • system integrity -- trust is built into the system’s processes through transparent management, a data-driven clearinghouse and reliable redemption technology.

“With alarming growth in plastic waste worldwide and drive from businesses, consumers and governments alike to take action, it is vital that deposit return systems truly achieve the environmental objectives they strive toward,” says Wolfgang Ringel, a senior vice president with Tomra. “By taking a deep dive into deposit return systems across the globe, we can learn from the past and strengthen future policies for the benefit of people and the planet.”

“Our commitment to the circular economy is unequivocal,” says Volker Rehrmann, head of circular economy at Tomra. “We take pride in doing our part: sharing our know-how, developing new solutions and striving to make our planet more sustainable every day.”

Policymakers are turning to DRSs as a successful approach for tackling circular economy challenges, says the company. In the past three years, at least 22 states or countries have committed to update or develop deposit return systems, bringing the global total to more than 60.

Recent adopters include England, Portugal and Australia, according to Tomra. In addition, the European Union’s Single-Use Plastics Directive establishes targets for member states to collect 90 percent of all plastic bottles by 2029, a rate that may be difficult to reach without a deposit on beverage containers.

The white paper also examines what Tomra calls 12 key policy elements that can help put the four identified principles into practice and offers case studies of regions “that are best at delivering on those elements in their deposit return systems.”

The company is planning to offer more information on RVMs and DRS best practices to the North American and European markets, starting with a webinar on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at 9 a.m. eastern time in the U.S. and Canada and 3 p.m. central European time. Registration information for that webinar can be found on this web page.

Tomra says the white paper can be downloaded at no cost from this web page.