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Glass bottle return system returns to Paris supermarkets

Leclerc and Système U have opened new glass deposit machines this week

A view of a box of empty glass bottles

The ‘consigne’ system, which allows customers to return empty bottles to retailers, was common in France until the 1970s Pic: Wasted Generation / Shutterstock

Supermarkets in Ile-de-France, including Leclerc and Système U, have this week brought back a system enabling customers to return their glass bottles to be recycled.

The ‘consigne’ system, which allows customers to return empty bottles to retailers, was common in France until the 1970s, but had more or less disappeared until recently.

This new system began on Wednesday, February 7. 

Customers can bring their bottles to a machine in the supermarket and deposit them one-by-one. The intention is that these bottles will be taken back by the company, cleaned, and reused.

To offer the service, supermarkets Système U and Leclerc have joined forces with brands that use a vast number of bottles, including Coca-Cola, Perrier, Vittel, Météor beer, and Lorina lemonade.

Read also: Perrier, Vittel: French brands ‘illegally filtered contaminated water’

Alexandre Mariat, one of the directors of Lorina, explained why the company wanted to move towards the return of bottles and recycling. He told FranceInfo: “It's more expensive these days to re-use than to make something new. Tomorrow's objective is to move to a 100% deposit system. We'll only be able to do that if we all work together.”

Companies are increasingly implementing the system, as a new French law states that from this year onwards, 6% of the 100 billion items of packaging used in France must be reused.

One customer, who was using one of the new machines, said: “I run a family shop, which was set up in 1981. Back then, my grandfather used to run a return system. So we're definitely taking a nice trip back in time.”

Currently, the deposit schemes are only for glass bottles, but in future they could be rolled out to include plastic bottles and containers. 

Read more: How to recycle in France: Seven common questions answered 

However, currently many councils receive money for each plastic bottle that is recycled at waste collection areas, so the transition to plastic reuse (rather than recycling) could be more complex to implement. 

The new supermarket scheme comes after Now France Consigne, a group of ten organisations, has already joined together to promote the return of reusable bottles. 

The group launched in autumn 2022, and has called for the practice to be standardised across the country.

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