10 cents more for bottled, canned drinks from April 2025; refund after recycling, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

10 cents more for bottled, canned drinks from April 2025; refund after recycling

From April 2025, bottled and canned drinks will cost 10 cents more, but shoppers will get the deposit back once they return the empty cans and plastic bottles for recycling.

About 400 supermarkets - those larger than 200 sq m - will house return points, and most of them are likely to be smart reverse vending machines that guzzle up empty drink containers and dispense the money.

The 10-cent deposit will be placed on bottles and cans of all drink types between 150ml and 3 litres. Drink manufacturers and importers will have a three-month transition period from April 1, 2025 to clear older stocks so that from July 1, 2025, all bottles and cans in the market will be labelled with a new logo and barcodes that will aid the return and help consumers identify packaged drinks under the scheme.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor outlined the upcoming beverage container return scheme - to officially begin on July 2025 - at the start of the debate on the changes to the Resource Sustainability Act.

As part of the amendments to the Act, the House will also debate the minimum 5 cents plastic bag charge to be implemented at most supermarkets from July 2023.

Together with the plastic bag charge, the 2025 return scheme is the latest effort to nudge consumers to recycle and reduce disposables. While the aim is for Singapore’s domestic recycling rate to reach 30 per cent by 2030, the figure was at 13 per cent - a 10-year low - in 2021.

From now till April 30, households can also collect home recycling boxes from vending machines at more than 140 locations.

The return scheme will be financed by beverage producers, revenue from the sales of the recyclables, and unredeemed deposits.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) had mentioned in 2020 that the return scheme for drink containers would be implemented by 2022. That year, however, NEA said the scheme was proposed to start by mid-2024.

Dr Khor said beverage producers asked for more time to implement the scheme properly, and that it would go live from April 2025.

“We hear this feedback... we understand that the industry needs time to plan and set up a robust and effective scheme. This is to ensure smooth implementation at the ground for the multiple stakeholders of the scheme, beyond the manufacturers and importers to the F&B operators and consumers.”

On the 10-cent deposit, Dr Khor said: “A higher deposit would encourage participation and a higher return rate, but we do not want the deposit to be too high such that it deters purchases of pre-packaged beverages.”

NEA is still exploring whether the refund method should be in the form of e-payment or cash.

Reverse vending machines are not completely foreign to Singapore. In a rewards initiative between NEA and F&N Foods since 2019, more than 13 million bottles and cans have been collected from about 50 of such machines islandwide.

In a public consultation on the scheme in September 2022, some respondents were concerned about producers passing on the scheme costs to consumers, causing beverage prices to rise.

In response, NEA said the cost pass-through to consumers in beverage prices, if any, will likely be moderated by price competition among industry players along the value chain.

By the scheme’s third year in Singapore, about 800 million containers or 80 per cent of the bottles and cans put into the market are expected to be returned, said NEA. The first two years will have return rate targets of 60 and 70 per cent, respectively.

In the 50 other countries and states that have a similar scheme, the current return rates are mostly between 80 and 98 per cent.

Supermarkets were chosen to house the return points because most packaged drinks are sold there and were preferred by respondents during the public consultation, said Dr Khor.

But for greater convenience to consumers, NEA will work with the future operator of the scheme to set up additional return points in places such as common spaces in residential estates, hawker centres and malls.

If the scheme was owned and run by the industry, it would have a strong incentive to operate efficiently, to keep scheme costs low for all parties.

Dr Khor added that several beverage producers have expressed interest to jointly support the formation of the scheme operator.

The 2025 scheme aims to raise the country’s recycling rate, and will be the first phase of getting producers to bear the responsibility for the collection and recycling of their packaging waste.

Plastic bottles and metal cans comprise about 70 per cent of beverage containers put to market, have high material values, and are easy to collect, compact and recycle, said NEA.

The return scheme will help to ensure that a clean stream of good quality plastic bottles and metal cans can be recycled, so that it can help to develop Singapore’s recycling industry, the agency added.

Currently, most recyclables are collected and sorted in Singapore before being exported overseas for recycling.

Dr Yvonne Lin, materials expert at WWF-Singapore (World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore) said: “With the introduction of the beverage container return scheme, the collection of plastic bottles will hopefully increase tremendously to a significant extent so that it is economically viable to have our own plastic recycling plant in Singapore.”

During an online public consultation about the return scheme last year, there were concerns about its impact on informal collectors such as the karang guni and seniors who make a living by collecting used cans.

In response, NEA said it will work with the scheme operator to cater to the informal sector. For example, larger return centres could be set up for the karang guni to drop off the cans.

Dr Lin said: “The informal sector can consolidate their collections and collect the refunds through the centres instead of overwhelming the reverse vending machines (meant for consumers). Informal collectors can also consider working with offices or commercial buildings that do not have return points to offer their collection services.”

Consumers or companies that hand over the empty bottles and cans to informal collectors will be forfeiting the refund which will be given to the karang guni or elderly instead.