But as anyone who has used these points will likely testify, many items placed into them for recycling tend to be rejected, causing confusion and frustration. Latvian Television's 'Revidents' (Inspector) program looked at why this is the case.
Most often, it is labeling of a deposit scheme from another country that causes problems when inserting packaging, but sometimes the reasons may be different, according to Miks Stūrītis, the chairman of the board of SIA "Depozītapakojuma operators" ("DIO").
Currently, automatic deposit points or reverse vending machines located in Latvia accept beverage packages with a Latvian deposit mark. These appear on carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks, beer and other fermented products with an alcohol content of up to 6% in metal, plastic and glass packaging.
Each country has its own deposit mark. And in Latvian stores it is common for products with Lithuanian or Estonian deposit symbol to be offered. Norwegian and Finnish labels also appears from time to time. Sadly, these are all incompatible with the Latvian recycling scheme – even though at a glance the symbols can look very similar. In such a case, consumers will have to just put bottles into a regular recycling collection point without recouping a deposit payment.
In other cases the sign is correct, but the reverse vending machine still does not accept it. This could be for several reasons, Stūrītis suggested. The bottle may be placed into the machine too hard. The beverage manufacturer may not have correctly registered its packaging in the database. The reverse vending machine sensor may be faulty or dirty.
In such cases, consumers can report them via the communication application "WhatsApp" by sending a message to the phone number +371 20224124, showing a photo of the reverse vending machine, indicating the time and place. If "WhatsApp" is not available, you can also write to [email protected], though it is questionable how many people will go to such lengths when stuck with a sack still half-full of old bottles.
Additionally, reverse vending machines do not accept damaged packaging, i.e. flattened or partially destroyed packaging. Whereas in previous years people have been encouraged to crush plastic bottles or tin cans in order to reduce the space they take up, now bottles need to be intact and in good condition so that they can be processed and crushed in a standardized manner.
After sorting, plastic bottles and cans end up in bales weighing 200-300 kilograms, which are compressed, loaded into trucks and taken to the next stage of packaging recycling.
Aluminum is recycled in Western Europe, where Germany is our closest location, but plastic is recycled here in Latvia.
It is too early to judge how popular the deposit system is in Latvia and whether problems such as those outlined above are limiting its effectiveness, Revidents said. Even in the largest stores only 75% of beverage packaging has a deposit mark, as August 1 is the date upon which it becomes compulsory. Consequently it will be Fall before a clear picture will emerge of whether society has taken to the new system or whether trash is still accumulating in the forest in ever-increasing amounts.