DEPOSIT RETURN SCHEME (DRS): Are DRS results in Europe transferable to Spain?

Waste management is going through a crucial period in Spain and in Europe. The quantity of waste packaging generated by society has been increasing, and political and social concern has been growing in parallel, owing to the environmental problems that can arise if this waste is not correctly managed. To address growing waste production in society, it is necessary to establish appropriate systems to provide a service to the people and to achieve compliance with legal obligations.

Given the upward review of recycling targets in Europe, different political, economic and scientific arguments have emerged in a number of EU Member States both in favour of and against the establishment of a mandatory Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for certain types of single-use containers.

This would be an alternative or a complement to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) management systems. DRS are currently implemented in just 11 of the 50 countries in Europe (Fullana et al., 2017).

The DRS is a waste management alternative in which those responsible for placing the packaged products on the market charge a deposit on each container to successive customers (through to the end user). This deposit is refunded in full to the consumer if the empty used container is returned in perfect condition for identification.

In studies to evaluate the suitability of introducing a DRS for certain types of container, it is common to carry out comparisons with existing systems that have been up and running for some time.

This article analyses the key differences and highlights the most relevant aspects that have a significant influence on the comparative analysis of these systems. It also looks at how a DRS might be implemented in countries currently studying the feasibility of such schemes.


Dra Alba Bala
Head of Waste Management Research Line at UNESCO Chair in Lifecycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF
Blanca Díaz
 Director of Gastroloop