European Commission registers citizen initiative on plastic bottle deposit system


The European Citizen Initiative (ECI) “ReturnthePlastics” aims to implement an EU-wide deposit-return system (DRS) to recycle plastic bottles. According to its organisers, the system would be based on a €0.15 deposit for every plastic bottle purchased in the EU, which the consumer would receive back after returning the used plastic bottle to a reverse vending machine in a supermarket. In addition, they propose that plastic bottle manufacturers would bear the costs of putting this system in place.

Some Member States already have a DRS to collect beverage bottles (not only plastic bottles). The Single-use Plastics Directive 2019/904 (SUPD) encourages this measure to achieve the collection of 77% of single-use plastic beverage bottles by 2025 and 90% by 2029. However, introducing DRS is not mandatory.

If the ECI receives at least 1 million signatures of citizens from at least seven Member States within 12 months from a date chosen by the organisers, which must be not later than six months from its registration, the organisers may present it at public hearing of the European Parliament and meet with the Commission, which must set out its legal and political conclusions on the ECI in a communication. However, the Commission is not obligated to take any further action. Since 2012, to promote participatory democracy at EU level, the Commission has found 82 of 107 requested ECIs admissible (i.e. in the EU areas of competence); only six reached the required threshold of signatures. The period for the collection of signatures of this ECI has not started yet.

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The National Law Review, 10 September 2021