One of the biggest problems facing our earth’s wellbeing is plastic. Each year, over 270 million metric tons of plastic is produced and used throughout the world. And anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 metric tons of it winds up in our oceans. This plastic pollution is a big problem and every country has its own way of tackling the issue. One impressive method is Germany’s Pfand system.
Way back when, it was common practice to take used glasses and bottles to the recycling plant. Upon recycling them, you’d receive a payment. Unfortunately, long gone are the days when this was a regular occurrence, at least in America. But in Germany they’ve taken it to a whole new level! The Pfand system is a plan to encourage drink companies to supply their products in refillable plastic or glass bottles that could be reused up to 25 times for plastic and 50 for glass. The idea is to reduce CO2 emissions and produce fewer bottles over time. Under the plan, wholesalers and retailers pay a deposit to the producer, which they can pass directly on to the customer in the form of a surcharge to encourage them to return the bottles when they’re finished. In other words, once a customer finishes using and reusing the bottle, they can return it to the retailer to get the surcharge back and the retailer returns it to the producer for recycling.
Though the process sounds fairly simple, it does have its issues. Not every type of plastic or glass is included in the Pfand system, which makes it confusing for some to keep up with what they can or can’t return for a refund. Plus, some companies found the cost of producing these reusable containers too expensive to maintain.
While the Pfand system has its flaws, the idea is a good one and is being expanded upon by other countries, like Norway. If people can become encouraged and motivated to reuse their containers and then return them once they’re no longer useable, we could really make a huge impact on the environment. And once that system is perfected, we could start looking into other plastic products like food packaging.