Kenya is ready for a deposit return scheme

I remember as a child my father used to keep a crate of soda bottles in a store somewhere waiting for Christmas celebration or when one of us excelled in school where we would be treated to the sugar rush.

On such occasions we would dig out the dusty bottles, clean them of cockroach limbs that had died on a mission impossible to enjoy the sugar stuck at the glass bottom before we returned them to the shopkeeper. Failure to which we had to deposit Kes10 until we returned the bottle.

However, today with the rise of convenient plastic, it has become easier to buy a bottle of soda and even easier to throw away the bottle without thinking twice about it.

It is no wonder that one in every two bottles in Kenya is a Coca-Cola plastic bottle across brands from fuzzy drinks, water packaging and juice concentrates.

While companies have come up with all sorts of efforts to tame this explosion in pollution, in reality they have no way of collecting all the bottles back let alone recycle them.

In Kenya, Coca-Cola through the industry recycling firm Petco has created a business around its waste in a bid to collect most of their bottles while changing the colour of their sprite bottle from green to clear to make it easier to recycle.

Read also: Inside Coca-Cola’s plan to tackle global plastic pollution

PET recycling rates rising

The bottling companies pay plastic collectors get Kes19 for every kilogramme of PET they sell to recyclers and PETCO chips in a top-up of Kes5, bringing the payday to Kes24 per kilogramme.

But while the bottling company says its PET recycling rates in Kenya increased from 5 per cent in 2018 to approximately 40 per cent in the first two years of implementation its “self-regulate” the recycling of PET plastics through PETCO, the reality is we will forever fall short of clearing off al bottles.

That is where Deposit Return Scheme or Deposit Refund Scheme comes in. Consumers are forced to pay a small fee when they buy a product on the premise that the fee will get refund when they return the empty product packaging container.

The system works on the foundation that if you create a financial incentive for consumers, they are likely to return the packaging, helping increase collection. This ensures higher recycling rates and stops materials leakage into the environment.

Deposit return systems are picking up across the world having been enacted in law in over 40 countries by 2020 and expected to be part of EU’s Green New Deal before 2023.

Deposit Return Scheme can help tackle the climate emergency by increasing the recycling rate of eligible drinks containers to 90 percent.

However, despite its efficiency, corporations leading in plastic pollution have shown resistance to measures introducing deposit return schemes arguing it will increase their costs.

While the Kenyan government is yet to consider legislation to encourage deposit return schemes, as the war on plastic grows globally, such a scheme will also likely get adopted locally.

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