Refillable beverage containers have an important role to play in the circular economy. Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, refillable systems offer tremendous economic benefits in terms of material cost savings and job creation, which are multiplied with each refill.
Despite these benefits, the market share of beverages in refillable containers has declined rapidly in jurisdictions around the world as single-use alternatives made from glass, plastic, metal and multi-laminate materials take their place. In Western Europe alone, sales of refillable beverage containers have dropped from 63.2 billion units in 2000 to 40.2 billion units in 2015.
Countries that continue to show a relatively high market share for refillables have actively implemented policy instruments to preserve the refillable infrastructure. This factsheet examines three policy mechanisms that, when used in tandem, can help reverse the decline of refillable bottles: (1) mandatory container deposits; (2) green levies or advance disposal fees; and (3) reuse targets.