The CEO of MOHU, Hungarian oil giant MOL’s Waste Management Ltd announced on Tuesday that the installation of new beverage packaging recycling machines is underway in food retail stores larger than 400 square metres, and over a hundred smaller stores have already expressed their interest in joining the system.
Zsolt Pethő reminded that from 1 January, a new beverage packaging return system will be introduced in Hungary, where
all beverage packaging labelled for return, including single-use glass, metal, and plastic bottles, will be eligible for return.
When purchasing, customers will pay a uniform return fee of 50 forints per bottle, which will be refunded one the bottles are returned.
The CEO explained that the new system could result in the return and recycling of approximately 3.3 billion bottles in Hungary each year. Based on examples from Western Europe, it is clear that after the introduction of the return system, a return and recycling rate of over 90 per cent can be achieved.
He emphasized that the biggest challenge is collecting the returns. However, for users, there is a financial incentive to get back the 50 forints they paid when making the purchase in the form of a voucher.
From 1 January, MOHU will provide the service with more than 2,000 deployed machines. According to the new law, every food retail store larger than 400 square metres must operate these machines, but MOHU expects many voluntary participants among smaller stores. Pethő indicated that they plan to have between 4,000 and 6,000 machines, which would provide nationwide coverage. The CEO stressed that the new return system applies to single-use beverage bottles. Manufacturers already handle the return of reusable bottles, which currently make up less than 10 per cent of all bottles.
Pethő pointed out that different symbols will be used for single-use and reusable bottles. However, 90 per cent of the products consumers encounter will be single-use packaging. A significant change from the past is that the new machines can identify only intact bottles. Therefore, from January, bottles with the return logo should not be crushed, such as PET bottles or beer cans. The transitional period for manufacturers will last until 30 June, during which they can still introduce beverage bottles in unmarked packaging into circulation. As a result,
there will be bottles without markings on the shelves for a longer period, which should continue to be disposed of in selective waste collection bins.
The CEO stated that recycling of dairy product and fibre cartons, as well as preserving jars, is more complex from several perspectives; therefore, these packaging materials are not included in the new system.
Head of Manufacturer Responsibility Systems at MOHU Szilvia Szabó explained that smaller stores with less than 400 square meters may also be interested in operating the machines or manual return points because customers are likely to redeem the return fees at these locations.
The recycling machines will automatically print vouchers in the value of the returned bottles. Consumers will be able to redeem the vouchers for purchases or have them converted into cash. Customers will also have the option to have the return fees transferred to their bank accounts or donated to charity organizations. Szabó added that MOHU is actively seeking partners in small communities to ensure consumers have access to the return system everywhere.
Sources: Hungarian Conservative/MOHU/MTI