Plastic Bottles Around the Globe

What are the other recycling systems in various countries for dealing with plastic bottles?

Germany [1]

  • Places a tax on plastic bottles, but tax is returned when the bottle is returned to stores.
  • The tax/ deposit value is 25 eurocent and is applied to all beverages in plastic bottles except milks and juices.
  • This is successful with 98.5% of refillable plastic bottles returned.
  • The returned bottle is then remade into a new bottle
  • This has removed 1-2 billion plastic containers from Germany’s bins

Having lived in Germany, I have used this deposit system and found it helpful. Though the article says that there is almost no littering of these plastic containers, I know that many people do leave plastic bottles in the trash bins, but the poor and homeless will collect them for money. An empty plastic bottle is sometimes referred to as “Beggar’s Gold” because it is easy money for those without. This deposit system helps out the environment but also those in poverty!

Along with Germany, a few other European countries have introduced a deposit for plastic bottles: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Croatia.

South Korea [2]

  • Recycles 100% of all recyclable material
  • Volume-based disposal fee:
    • Waste bags are purchased for the same price as waste treatment
    • Price is correlated to the volume of the bag
    • Residents required to separate recyclables which are easily identifiable by markings
    • Plastics are compressed into blocks and sold to companies for repurposing

Mexico [3]

  • Launched a non-profit: Ecology and Corporate Commitment (ECOCE)
    • Raises public awareness of environmental impact of plastic bottle waste
    • Promotes development of reuse and recycling of plastic bottles
    • Provides incentives to schools or employees of companies based on amounts recovered during the year
  • With 1,300 suppliers country-wide, they are able to reclaim 74,000 tons a year
  • A new recycling plant was built in 2009 and recycles 27,000 metric tons of clear resin a year

Though not as impressive as the system in South Korea or in countries like Germany, the beginning of the recycling movement in Mexico is just as important. You always have to start somewhere.

Progress on using no plastic bottles:

I have not used any disposable plastic water bottles, but I have used soda or juice bottles. Not often, as that requires me to go out to a place that sells bottled drinks, but twice in the past week I have drunk out of disposable plastic bottles. Both times, I placed the empty bottle in the recycling bin, but I did not realize until afterwards that those count as plastic bottles. I am using my refillable bottle more which is great.



[1] – Europe –

[2] – South Korea –

[3] – Mexico –


One thought on “Plastic Bottles Around the Globe

  1. I think the amount of the deposit plays a factor in whether people will turn in plastic bottles for the money. For example, when I lived in Michigan in the early 1990’s, the deposit was 10 cents per soda can or bottle. Everyone turned them in at the grocery store because you’d frequently be given as much as $5 for two cases of used soda or beer cans. Because is was over 30 years ago before bottled water became popular, water bottles were exempt. I do not know if water bottles are still exempt though.

    In comparison, when we lived in California is was only 2 1/2 cents per bottle, and no one collected them or turned them in for money. It wasn’t worth the trouble. But, we did recycle them! 🙂


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