Latvia's remarkable achievement as the DRS reaches an 80% return rate for eligible containers, exceeding the EU Single-Use Plastic Directive's goal and contributing to a cleaner environment.

Latvia's DRS Achieves 80% Return Rate - Environmental Success

On 1 February 2024, exactly two years after the launch of Latvia's DRS, DIO announced that the DRS achieved a landmark 80% return rate for eligible containers by the end of 2023. With this, Latvia has already reached the EU Single-Use Plastic Directive’s goal of a 77% return rate by 2025 – two years before it is due. Latvia’s sights are now firmly on meeting the Directive’s 90% return rate by 2029.

"An average return rate of 80% over two years is a commendable achievement, particularly considering that the majority of Latvian society did not have previous habits around container returns,” explains Miks Sturitis from DIO. “The return rate for refillables has already reached 90%, up from 50% prior to the system’s implementation, while the PET collection rate has risen to 83% from 45%.”

By September 2023, more than half a billion packaging units entered the Latvian deposit return system. This equated to 7,700 tons of PET packaging, 10,000 tons of glass and 2,140 tons of aluminum for recycling, and 92 million glass bottles returned for refilling.

“When we began implementing the deposit system, one of our primary objectives was to ensure a cleaner environment in Latvia and significantly reduce litter,” adds Miks Sturitis. “I am particularly pleased to report that this goal has been achieved.” Independent environmental and litter monitoring organizations have recorded a 61% reduction in plastic containers in litter along the Baltic Sea coastline between 2021 and 2023, and a 49% reduction among all DRS containers. A clean-up of the Gauja River as part of the “Save Our Sea” campaign found not a single container marked with a deposit sign. 54% of consumers surveyed said the environment has become cleaner after the implementation of the DRS.

“We are highly motivated to continue improving the system, making it even more convenient and accessible for society,” said Miks Sturitis. “This includes upgrading collection capabilities in high-demand locations and further educating our younger generation and societal groups that are not yet fully participating in the return process. Our goal is to achieve a 90% collection and recycling rate by the end of 2025.”

Consumer satisfaction is high and growing: 69% of DRS participants had recommended the DRS to others as of March 2023, and 73% as of October 2023, with 69% of participants rating the DRS between 8 and 10 (on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest satisfaction). DIO research shared in November 2023 also found that the deposit system is used regularly (at least once per month) by 80% of the population (a 9% increase from the previous year), and by 94% of Latvian households. Recyclers' main motivations to participate were to reclaim their deposit refund (61%), reduce waste in nature (52%), and care for the environment (39%).

Latvia’s DRS has also brought an opportunity for the public to donate their deposit refund to charity, for an added positive impact to the community. Recyclers are able to make a donation to seniors in need, aid for Ukraine, or animal shelters – simply by clicking “donate” direct from the TOMRA reverse vending machine’s screen. In one year, 357,000 euros were donated to charity. In December 2023, a fourth donation partner was added, supporting seriously ill children.

TOMRA has recently collaborated with DIO to install the first high-volume RVMs in Latvia, capable of receiving up to 100 PET containers and cans at once.

“What is very positive is that Latvia has been responsive and agile in managing its DRS – for example, by extending the range of containers included after just one year, to boost the return rate and get more material out of nature,” says Thomas Morgenstern.


Keywords

Latvia , DRS , return rate , plastic recycling , environmental impact

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