German Deposit Refund System (DRS)

The DRS adds value to recycled material for the simple reason that citizens do the sorting and in return receive the deposit they have previously paid. The system works with the precision of a watch and achieves a recycling rate of almost 100% of the material placed on the market.

German Deposit Refund System (DRS)

Victoria Ferrer Maymó, Institutional Development at the Gremi de Recuperació de Catalunya (Catalan Recovery Guild)

In Germany, segregated collection in containers, known as selective collection (brown container for organic waste, green container for glass, yellow for plastics and packaging, grey for reject and blue for paper and board), coexists with the DRS to enable high recycling rates.

The deposit refund system implemented in Germany and 40 other regions worldwide consists of associating a monetary value to the container of between €0.08 and €0.15 for returnable containers and €0.25 for single-use recyclable containers. This amount is reimbursed to the consumer when the empty container is returned to the retail outlet.

It should be pointed out that a reusable container is one that can be cleaned and used again, while a recyclable container is one that can be used just once as a container but, when selectively collected, can be recycled for use as new secondary raw material.

All drinks containers, with the exception of those that have contained juices or dairy products, are included in the German system and citizen response to the system has been excellent.

The success lies in the simplicity of the action required. The buyer purchases a bottle of water and both the price of the liquid and the price of the container are indicated on the label. Consumers only pay for the liquid and the value of the container is returned to them at any shop, bar, filling station or large supermarket.