European Union investigating single deposit refund system for metal cans


The possibility of introducing a single Europe-wide deposit refund system for metal cans is being looked at by the European Commission.

It has funded a consultation, being undertaken by consultancy Eunomia, to look at difficulties between the operation of different recycling schemes across Europe for metal cans.


It notes that there is a huge trade in goods in cans between EU nations by private individuals such as buying beer in a country where it is cheaper, and then returning it to be consumed in their home nation. If one of these countries operates a deposit scheme and another doesn’t, this leads to distortions in recovery of metal cans in the market because no EU country which has a deposit scheme redeems the deposit of another country.

One of the solutions it suggests for this is an EU-wide single deposit refund system. It would mean that any beverage bought in the EU would have a deposit and this would be redeemable in any EU country. The advantages of this, it says, would be a simple, easy to understand cross- Europe system. It believes this would benefit countries where lots of cross-border trade takes place by raising recycling rates and would probably increase overall recycling rates of cans across the EU.

However, it recognises that this would lead to higher costs in introducing the system, would be politically difficult to introduce in countries such as the UK that does not currently have a deposit refund scheme, and could potentially distort the market for other beverage containers.

Another option being consulted on is for only the existing European deposit schemes and future schemes to be included, leaving out those that do not have a system.

It is also investigating whether a way can be found to make existing system work together.

More on the consultation can be found at