Vote of confidence for recovery scheme as three in four bottles get recycled

BCRS recovers 76% of drinks containers in first quarter: ‘scheme clears environment of practically every errant beverage container that normally litter beaches, countryside and seas’

Reverse vending machines installed at a Public Recycling Hub
Reverse vending machines installed at a Public Recycling Hub

The company running Malta’s first plastic bottle recovery scheme has reported a successful public response, with three in four plastic containers sold returned into its recycling waste stream.

BCRS Malta said it had succeeded in recovering 76% of the total beverage containers placed on the market in the first quarter of 2023.

Since its launch in mid-November until April 30, a total of 64.4 million empty drinks containers were collected, with momentum picking up in the first quarter of this year with over 36 million containers of the 48 million placed on the market recovered during the quarter.

BCRS said this result was remarkable for a small nation like Malta, but cautioned that these figures were just a first snapshot emerging from the beginning of the year. “We have just closed the first quarter of 2023 and all the indicators are showing we’re on track to meet the collection targets of 70 cent by the end of this year… however, it is still too early to predict the months ahead based on Q1 data alone,” the company said.

The introduction of a beverage container refund scheme, which saw Malta introduce a 10c deposit on drink bottles and cans, aims to reduce littering, while drastically increasing the collection and recycling rates of single-use drink containers in plastic, metal and glass placed on the market.

The company attributes the success of the scheme also to the accessibility of placing public hubs across Malta and Gozo, reverse vending machines (RVMs) in supermarkets, as well as manual collections from catering establishments and smaller retail outlets in different towns and villages.

With the roll-out of the jumbo-sized machines for PET plastic starting this week, the total number of machines spread across Malta and Gozo will reach 348 over the summer months.

According to the first quarter figures, 79% of PET plastic placed on the market was recovered; 73% of cans; and 74% of glass meaning that all three material types are being successfully collected at high rates.

Of the total 36.3 million beverage containers collected between January and March 2023, the bulk (91.6%) came from the RVMs split between supermarkets (51%), and public hubs (49%).

Manual collection amounted to 3,045,282 containers (8.4%), with the majority (73%) recovered from catering establishments and 27% from retail outlets.

The localities where most containers were collected were those in the northern and eastern regions, followed closely by the south region.

The company said the biggest vote of confidence was the scheme’s ability to have cleared the environment of practically every errant beverage container that normally litter the island’s beaches, countryside and seas. “Looking back, the past five months have been highly challenging, as we had to adapt the typical Deposit Refund Scheme model used predominantly in northern European regions to fit the local typical mix of drink containers as well as adapting fast to the realities encountered on the ground during the rollout; but also incredibly rewarding given the performance attained in just a few months,” BCRS Malta said.