France moves to introduce glass deposit scheme in supermarkets

Trials are due next year but it is not expected to be rolled out nationwide before 2025

The government also wants to standardise glass packaging to make reusing them easier
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Supermarkets in France could soon be obliged to collect returned glass jars and bottles after the government announced the return of a glass deposit scheme.

A number of stores from different supermarket chains have already volunteered to host trials of the initiative, which could launch next year.

It would see supermarkets collect and wash bottles, jars and other glass packaging.

But it is unclear at this stage what deposits would be required to entice consumers to return the bottles in the first place.

Reducing food packaging waste – in particular from plastic – is “the mother of all battles” in France, according to France’s Ecology Minister Bérangère Couillard, as she announced the scheme on Thursday (June 22).

However, some local politicians are against the waste-tackling measures announced by the ministry – including potential plastic bottle deposits – as they say consultations on the matters have been “false” and “being forced through” by the government without consideration.

First part of scheme to launch in 2024

Whilst the scheme will take up to two years to be rolled out nationwide, a number of stores – in particular Carrefour hypermarkets – have signed up as volunteers to the programme, with a trial set to launch in 2024.

It will see certain stores install glass deposits in supermarket entrances, allowing the products to be washed, sanitised, and reused again.

“For the re-use of glass, there will be discussions on the legal framework before the end of the year,” said the minister.

By 2025, stores will be “obliged,” to accept glass bottles, jars, yoghurt pots, etc, if customers return them to the store – and not just the store they were purchased at, with a drive to standardise packaging to maximise the scheme’s potential.

In May, the Ministry for Ecological Transition, alongside eco-packaging organisation Citeo, announced the creation of standardised glass packaging, that was subsequently adopted by glassmakers such as Verallia and O-I.

A €50 million fund - to encourage brands and other package produce to adopt these standardised glass products instead of plastic packaging - will also be set up.

Standardisation will allow packaging to be reused across a number of products and brands, improving the efficiency of the scheme.

The move away from plastic to glass should help households reuse more food packaging, less than 1% of which is currently being reused.

The ministry has a goal of reusing 10% of this packaging by 2027, before eliminating single-use plastic in France by 2040.

The mass adoption of glass packaging will go a long way towards helping the state reach these targets.

Read also: Do you need to clean out containers before recycling in France?

Criticism from local councillors

Not everyone is happy with the scheme, however.

One potential sticking point would be the introduction of suitable washing points across France, which could be difficult to install and increase water consumption at the same time as water sobriety is being urged by the government.

A number of local councillors are angry at the ecological ‘levers’ announced by the Ministry as part of the scheme, saying they have been “forced through” without adequate consultations.

One of these includes the introduction of a “bonus-malus system” to reward local authorities that improve their household waste collection and punish those who do not.

Local authorities say the wider action plan on cutting down on packaging was not “presented or discussed with the associations,” that would be responsible for its implementation.

Read also: How to cut down on yoghurt pot plastic pollution

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