Basque Country introduces deposits in major supermarkets this year

by Lorraine Williamson

The Basques are taking inspiration from the city of Berlin to introduce deposits by 2024. With this plan, the Basque Country aims to meet part of its recycling targets, which it has set out in a plan to reduce waste. 

The Basque government is entering talks with major supermarket chains such as Eroski, Lidl and Mercadona to set up a deposit project by 2024. The use of deposits has been common in countries like the Netherlands and in a city like Berlin for many years. The Basques want to use a ´pilot´ to try to encourage reuse of packaging. Decades ago, the Basque country already had a similar concept with glass soft drink bottles.

Supermarket pilot scheme

During the pilot, although some products will be slightly more expensive, customers will get those costs back if they return the packaging after use. The cost of the programme involves an investment of €80,000. 

At the moment, it is not yet clear at which locations the deposit pilots will run. However, the government believes it is important that large supermarket chains take a leading role in the project. These are the supermarkets that are visible in the Basque Country and have a lot of experience with the commercial side of product sales. 

Cogesa Expats

EU funds for deposit plan

The initiative was announced in November, during the presentation of a plan to prevent and reduce waste in the Basque Country. The autonomous region received €7 million for the plan from Next Generation EU funds to make Europe greener, healthier and more digital. 

Amount of packaging material must be drastically reduced

The councillor stressed that suppliers and supermarkets should lead by example in complying with “waste regulations”. Moreover, they are responsible for managing packaging stock correctly. However, no one is obliged to participate in the deposit programme currently being worked on.

“This is the first pilot project in this area that the Basque Country will implement,” said the government, which also reports that the amount of new packaging on the market should be reduced by 90% by 2029. According to the original plan, by 2023, 70% of those targets should already be achieved. By 2027, they should be 85%. If the targets are not met, a recycling programme will be rolled out nationally within two years, according to the Basque council. Funding for the deposit pilot is set in the 2024 Basque budget.

Government looks at feasibility of deposit project

During the pilot, the government will monitor whether supermarkets properly handle the extra cost of packaging and the deposit to be refunded later. The government will also look at how the public is coping with the new measures. “The aim of the pilot is to see if such a system is feasible and to take measures to improve the system if necessary. For now, these measures will apply to those who voluntarily participate in the implementation of deposits. Should the plan be rolled out further, certain measures will also become mandatory for others.” The environment ministry will eventually prepare a report on the findings.

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