The enormous progress of plastic packaging “drowns” the world. It is an ecological catastrophe, and the vast majority of the Earth’s population contributes to it. Lithuania is among those countries which show real efforts to reduce the scale of this problem.

In all municipalities of Lithuania the system of waste sorting has been operating for many years now, which enables residents to deliver different types of waste to the designated collection points: batteries, small electronic equipment, glass, metal and plastic packages are collected in supermarkets; glass, plastic, paper waste is left outside in special containers placed at high frequency; large items like furniture, equipment and construction waste are left in the areas arranged by municipalities.

Since the inhabitants of Lithuania are not legally construed or additionally motivated to waste sorting, the success of waste reduction and sorting depends to a large extent on the awareness of the population. One of the most successful examples to solve the problem of waste sorting that we can share with other countries is the emergence of reverse vending machines (RVM) or a deposit system. Under this system, metal, glass and plastic beverage packages marked with a label of the deposit system are collected if at the time of return they are empty, retaining the original form, and with intact labels and a clearly visible barcode. When we buy products marked in this order, we pay a deposit of 10 euro cents. And when returning it to RVM in special “kiosks” near or at supermarkets, or simply bringing it to cashiers in small rural stores, we receive a receipt, the amount of which can be cleared at the shop cash register. The success of this project is illustrated by the numbers: in 2016, i.e. the first year of RVM establishment, 75% of the deposit-marked packages put on the market were collected; 92% of packages were collected  in 2017; and in 2018 it is expected to collect 93%. For now no state were able to reach such percentage of collected packages.

And while this is only 6 percent of all packaged products in circulation, the successful implementation of this system makes it possible to predict, that by expanding the range of packaging that can be added to the RVM, and in the near future there is a prospect to manage the situation and to significantly contribute to the reduction of pollution. At present, a draft of a law is presented for discussion at the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, proposing to extend the deposit system: to include bottles of strong alcoholic drinks and Tetra Pak packages.

A non-profit public institution “Užstato Sistemos Administratorius” is responsible for managing and servicing the RVM system and annually collects about half a billion packages that are sorted, counted and handed over for recycling. When assessing the types of packages involved in the deposit system, most of them are made of plastic (60%) and aluminium (34%), the remaining 6 percent fall on glass and steel packaging. At the moment there are 19 hired employees in this company, which serves all the Lithuanian reverse vending machines (over 2,700 units), with an annual turnover of EUR 20-30 million. Information about the system can be found at in both LT and EN languages.