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The European Union directive concerning Packaging and Packaging waste (2004/12/EC) stipulates that Member States must set into place a collection system for recovering used packages. However, it is up to each single Member State to decide on the collection method that is most suited.
Basically, post-consumer waste collection schemes in place in the various Member States (and the EU candidate countries) are the following: kerbside collection, drop-off locations, return vending machines, refill/deposit.
Kerbside collection" requires that citizens separate recyclable materials from their other household refuse, by putting them in specific waste bags. The bags are then collected from each household, just like regular refuse. Typically, 40 to 60% of targeted recyclables are returned through this type of collection. Kerbside Collection is convenient for households, but it is equally so for reclaimers as it offers the advantage of a low degree of material contamination. Furthermore, since a wide range of recyclables is included in this type of collection, overall costs can be reduced quite significantly.
As far as "drop-off locations" are concerned, they require citizens to collect their recyclables to then dispose of them at specific locations. Usually, about 10 to 15% of recyclables are recovered through this method. Drop-off collection entails quite a high contamination level (10% - 30%).
The "refill and deposit" system entails bottles to be sold with refundable deposits. Those are redeemable upon return of the bottle to participating retailers. Deposits may be charged on both refillable and single-use PET bottles. This approach was most common in Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. PET deposit programmes achieved very high return rates (90%) with very low levels of contamination of the post-consumer PET but were a barrier to cross-border trade and are now less widespread.
For more information on Collection, please register with the Petcore Europe website. The Document Library contains more in-depth articles and studies, including Petcore's manual on setting up a collection system and best practice.