Shops alert authorities to hygiene issues with deposit system

Right after Midsummer, the deposit system acceptance points are particularly congested. Small shops have complained they have nowhere to store the bottles, and on top of that, they attract vermin. Now, the deposit system operator (DIO) has announced it is prepared to collect the packaging more often, Latvian Television reported on June 28.

“The possibilities of traders, including small traders, are very different, there are traders who do not want to transfer the package to the operator every day, because they have storage space, and for those who do not have [storage space], we also offer and collect it it more frequently. [..] Our schedule involves collecting the package up to six times a week but any trader always has the possibility to apply for an extraordinary collection outside any timetable,” said DIO head Miks Stūrītis.

However, Stūrītis believes that objections are not quite justified and come from those who do not want to accept changes.

For shop workers, these are additional duties: changing deposit equipment tanks, carrying out maintenance, and ensuring cleanliness so that there is no unpleasant smell.

Stūrītis said individual traders oppose the deposit system, wanting to waive the obligation to participate in it. In Latvia, this requirement is mandatory in shops with a trade area of at least 60 square meters. However, the income from the distribution of products is generated by all traders, so responsibility should also be shared, believes Stūrītis.

This year, Rimi's network of stores accounted for a million container units more this Midsummer week than in the same period last year. But the network had prepared for it.

“There are shops where the volume of containers and also the flow of customers is larger, there are people who are paid separately, one or more people who service only the reverse vending machines,” said the public relations manager of Rimi Latvija Inga Bite.

Big market participants have more room for action than many other traders. Small shops fitted with reverse vending machines complain of ants, flies, cockroaches, unpleasant smells and extra loads for shop assistants. There are not that many machines in remote areas, so they fill up quickly at existing points and pile up everywhere in and around the shop.

The shop assistant of a small Lats store in Latgale, Viktorija Isajeva, said her job is not only to serve customers at the cash register, but also to service the machne.

“If we didn't clean it everyday, an inspector would arrive to clean it once a month; no one pays extra for it,” the shop assistant said.

This machine is the only one in the immediate vicinity, which is why people take containers from neighboring areas, and the quantities of bottles are high.

Viktorija admitted that pests had become a daily occurrence.

“Here are the ants, even though we didn't have them [before]. We're trying to maintain cleanliness, come here, smell it, you can feel it,” said Viktorija.

The full bags in containers are carried through the shop to the room where they are kept until the operator arrives. Nearly twenty bags were collected in two days.

The Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) acknowledges that hygiene problems related to reverse vending machines are frequently identified, but it is not possible to catch an ailment, get poisoning or an infection because the packaging is closed. Companies are not penalized for non-compliance with the hygiene of reverse vending machines.

In total, approximately 405 million units of packaging have been deposited in Latvia since the system was introduced in February of 2022.

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