A Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in Italy could unlock an array of environmental benefits such as reduced air pollution, increased recycling collection rates and less litter, according to a new report from L’Associazione nazionale dei Comuni Virtuosi (ACV) and A Buon Rendere (ABR).

It would also shift the burden of responsibility of paying for recycling systems from the taxpayer completely to producers, and as more plastic packaging is recycled this will further lower the Italian taxpayer funded ‘Own Resource’ contributions that Italy currently pays to the EU commission.

Italy already has relatively robust recycling infrastructure and has so far been reluctant to commit to the introduction of DRS. Elsewhere in Europe however, DRS has been proven to be able to achieve collection rates of over 90%, with Germany and Finland leading the way on 98% and 96%.

Simply put a DRS is where a small and fully refundable sum of money is charged on top of the cost of beverage containers at the point of sale to incentivise the consumer to return it for recycling, with the money returned to the consumer when the container is subsequently returned for recycling.

As a DRS is funded by producers this results in significant municipal savings for the collection and disposal of waste, estimated in Italy to be around €72.1 million annually, even accounting for the remaining material municipalities would still need to capture that’s not included in DRS.

A DRS would deliver on EU collection targets of 90% for single-use plastic bottles by 2029 under the Single-Use Plastic Directive whereas Italy’s current systems are expected to fall short. The collection rate for PET bottles with a DRS is predicted to increase from 73% to 94%.

The increased quality and quantity of collected recycled material from a DRS would also enable plastic bottle-to-bottle applications to meet recycled content targets through a reduction in sorting losses at recycling centres. Glass and aluminium would also see improvements in collection and recycling rates from a DRS but not as significantly as plastic.

A DRS is also expected to reduce overall visible litter by around 30%. Cleaner beaches would be especially beneficial in Italy as they are an important part of Italy’s tourist industry – an industry that directly employs 2.1 million people and accounts for 6.2% of Italy’s Gross Value Added (€99.9 billion).

Read the report in full  (PDF, 3MB, link opens a new window)