Serbia to Implement a Deposit Return System for Packaging Waste

At the conference “Packaging 5.0 – Inspiration. INNOVATION. Sustainability,” held on October 4, 2023, at the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia and organized by the Ambipak magazine portal, Sandra Dokić, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Serbia, announced that Serbia plans to implement a deposit system for managing packaging waste.

Sandra Dokić, Photo: Goran Zlatković

The Ambipak magazine conference, “Packaging 5.0 – Inspiration. INNOVATION. Sustainability,” held on October 4, 2023, at the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, gathered a large number of participants interested in packaging innovations and packaging waste management.

State Secretary Sandra Dokić delivered the introductory speech and emphasized from the outset that the Ministry of Environmental Protection has prioritized improving the waste management system. She exposed the results of previous consultations with the business sector and other relevant entities regarding packaging waste management.

“Waste Management Program in the Republic of Serbia, it has been defined that 26 regional waste management centers will be established. Investments have been secured for the construction of many, and construction will begin for those that have already been contracted,” stated the State Secretary, emphasizing the importance of these centers as the foundation for further system development.

According to the State Secretary, an investment of 1.5 billion euros is planned for these centers, and cooperation from all parties, including local governments, is necessary for their design and construction.

Discussing packaging waste management, Dokić noted that through analyses related to packaging waste management and the introduction of a deposit return system in Serbia, it was concluded that such centers are necessary.

During her address at the conference, Sandra Dokić presented the progress and results of the consultative discussions conducted by the Ministry’s team aimed at finding solutions for packaging waste management. She highlighted that 17 meetings have been held to date, with participation from all stakeholders interested in the subject. The Chamber of Commerce of Serbia also conducted a survey among its members to gain insights into different perspectives on packaging waste issues and potential improvements to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Law.

The conference attendees paid particular attention to information regarding the introduction of a deposit return system for packaging waste in Serbia. “When we consider overall municipal waste, the introduction of a deposit return system for PET bottles and cans should be an extension of the extended producer responsibility system,” emphasized Sandra Dokić. She also mentioned that the Ministry’s team faced concerns from retail chains about including glass packaging in the deposit return system due to its complexity and wide product portfolio, as well as the risks associated with handling it.

In her address, Ms. Dokić cited data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2022 report, indicating that of the 84,786 tons of recycled packaging waste from municipal waste, only 2.6%, or 6,754 tons, were collected by public utility companies. She stressed that public utility companies should play a crucial role in collecting packaging waste and ensuring the smooth functioning of the system.

Regarding the extended producers’ organizations (the operators of packaging waste management systems ), Dokić believed they should establish closer cooperation with public utility companies and receive their operational and financial support. The new Regulation for Determining the Packaging Waste Reduction Plan for 2024, which the Ministry will enact, will set targets for EPR system operators in 2024. These targets include collecting at least 20% of cardboard and paper waste, 10% of plastic waste, 32% of glass packaging, and 5% of metal packaging in collaboration with public utility companies

“In the process of these consultations, many stakeholders were involved, including several opposing parties,” stated the State Secretary. She recommended continued discussions and emphasized the necessity of dialogue between beverage producers and retail chains, with or without the Ministry’s involvement, to ensure that the introduction of the deposit system is balanced and doesn’t burden anyone excessively.

According to her presentation, the Republic of Serbia supports the introduction of a sustainable deposit return system, which, due to its complexity, is unlikely to be implemented before January 1, 2027.

In conclusion of her introductory speech at the Ambipak conference, Sandra Dokić announced the formation of a Working Group that will draft subsidiary legislation to introduce the deposit return system and once again called for discussions, dialogue, and ongoing consultations.

Sandra Dokić, Photo: Goran Zlatković

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