Latvia's deposit system still causes headache for small shops

In February 2022, a deposit system for beverage packaging was introduced in Latvia. Small shop owners remain unhappy with the system's requirements, Latvian Radio reported on December 4.

Currently, 80% of Latvian residents deposit their bottles and cans at least once a month or more, which is by 9 percentage points more than last year, but in total 94% of Latvian households use the deposit system, according to the deposit packaging operator's (DIO) latest research.

Gatis Galejs director of logistics and infrastructure of DIO, believes that the depositing of beverage packaging in Latvia has already become a habit and every resident of Latvia has handed over an average of 300 beverage packages to the reverse vending machines. The main reason, of course, is the possibility of recovering the deposit fee - 10 cents, but clean surroundings are also important for residents.

“We have additionally put 304 new reverse vending machines on the system and that means the system is becoming more and more accessible by the day. We're changing from lower-capacity machines to higher-capacity machines, where we're seeing a surge in demand,” Galejs said.

“We have also installed the first 'pouring machine' in Latvia, i.e. it is a high-capacity machine, it is not necessary to place one package at a time, but you can pack up to a hundred packages, close the lid and then the machine counts it. One is on the right bank of the Daugava in Rīga and we plan to install the other on the other side.”

Since December last year, there has also been an option to donate the recovered deposit fee to one of three charitable causes.

“We have already managed to channel over €300,000 to different donation targets. One is helping seniors, the other is helping Ukrainian children in Latvia and the third, most popular, is shelter animals. We will add another charity target in December, which will go toward the rehabilitation and treatment of severely ill children. We also look forward to the responsiveness and support of deposit system users for this new project.”

Deposit packaging must be accepted in rural shops with an area of at least 60 square meters. Raimonds Okmanis, chairman of the board of shop network Lats, says he manages more than 480 stores, 70% of which are small shops. Traders are not satisfied by the fact that in small shops the seller has to do extra work.

“If a person serves at the counter, one salesperson, and somebody brings the packaging, then they have to go take the packaging, [rurally] it usually happens manually. It makes work very difficult, puts extra burdens on those stores, and individual stores have closed just because of those requirements.

“We went with a proposal to the Environment Ministry that increase this mandatory requirement to be 200 square meters in the countryside. It had been submitted to the previous minister, and if it is not talked about, it does not mean that the problem has been solved. Shopkeepers are simply gritting their teeth, at least in Lars this system is used because otherwise, if you don't accept the packaging, you have a €10,000 penalty.”

Okmanis also says that in cities, small shops don't have to accept deposit packaging, but residents carry beverage packaging to supermarkets, and thus residents are less likely to visit small shops.

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