The beverage container return scheme (BCRS) has outperformed its legally mandated targets in its first full year of operation, with a total of 214 million containers collected throughout 2023.

That figure represents 80 per cent of the market which falls within the scope of the scheme – higher than the 70 per cent requirement established by law.

The scheme’s operator, BCRS Malta Ltd, delved into the figures for 2023 on social media, revealing that the proportion of PET (plastic) containers collected reached 81 per cent of the entire market.

For cans, the rate was a similarly high 80 per cent, while for glass it was a bit lower at 74 per cent.

The company said that by the end of 2023, it had exported a total of 9,250 tonnes of material for recycling.

“A big thank you goes out to everyone participating in this scheme, helping our nationwide effort towards a more sustainable future,” it said.

BCRS Malta Ltd added that as the first southern EU country to introduce the DRS, it is “thrilled to see more countries across Europe join Malta in embracing sustainable practices and taking action to reduce waste.”

Despite the triumphal tone of its review of 2023, BCRS had a difficult start, and remains the subject of frequent complaints on social media as people often find lines at the machines, while other times they do not work.

Many small businesses forced to adapt to the new scheme were often not entirely pleased at the prospect of storing large amounts of waste in their limited space, although this concern was mitigated through the launch of a collection service.

The operator has in the meantime made significant strides in improving the service, adding new machines and more locations, while returns have remained very robust.

BCRS machine
One of the large BCRS machines installed in summer 2023

Part of this success is attributable to the introduction of a new familiar sight on Maltese roads – people rifling through domestic, public and commercial garbage bags to find containers they can return in exchange for the 10c deposit.

And while some have argued that the scheme is responsible for the practice, which causes unease to many, it only provides the opportunity to make some extra cash in this manner – why people feel the need to take it is an entirely different matter.

In any case, the BCRS undoubtedly represents a significant leap forward in Malta’s recycling efforts – a sector the counrty has often lagged far behind in, and these results for its first full year of operation indicate that optimism for further improvement is not unwarranted.

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