beverage containers in Sweden

Joe Strahl (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 17:13:40 -0500

I've been reading through some of the exchange about recycling of
beverage containers and the resistance of some manufacturers to begin
to refill. Some messages have referred to the situation "in other
countries". Perhaps some of the information below could prove helpful
in arguments for less unsustainable packaging:

Carbonated beverages in Sweden are sold in glass bottles (33 cl)
aluminum cans (33cl and 50 cl) and in plastic bottles of various
sizes (the most common being 1.5 liters in size, there are also
smaller sizes like 33 cl) . All have deposits.

The aluminum cans have been part of a recycling system for about ten
years now. The current deposit is 0.50 SEK which is about 7 US
cents). The recycling rate for such cans is greater than 90%. The
deposit can be redeemed at most grocery stores where there is a
reverse vending machine which identifies the can as a valid can (sold
in Sweden, the machines reads the bar code on the can), crushes the
can and issues a receipt. Most grocery stores have the reverse
vending machine in the store, some at the entrance, some near where
carbonated beverages are sold.

The aluminium is then collected and taken to a smelter in Sweden
where the crushed cans get feed into new aluminum sheet coil

Glass bottles (33 cl) are still used for many carbonated beverages
but the market share is not high.

Plastic bottles were only allowed on the market after a former
Minister for the Environment placed the demand that such bottles must
be either refillable or recyclable for their introduction to the

The refillable PET made its debut first, it is claimed that it can be
refilled 20 times, currently it has a deposit of 4SEK per bottle
(which is about 52 US cents) and is only sold in the 1.5 liter size.

The recyclable PET is also available in the 1.5 liter size, and 2.0
liters as well I believe, with a deposit of 2SEK per bottle (which is
about 26 US cents). There are also smaller bottles which I think
50 cl and I don't recall the deposit on them (no one in my family
buys these).

As a side note, the *refillable* PET is so robust that it can be used
for other purposes, I've heard of children being told to take them to
school for science class experiments, before they get back into
the system.

The aluminum can and refillable PET systems are run by one company,
called Returpack AB. The financing for the two kinds of beverage
containers are managed separately (each system carries its own
weight). The glass and refillable PETs are managed by the
brewers/fillers more directly.

With regard to the aluminum can recovery system, Finland started a
similar system last year and Norway is considering this as well.
Denmark has had a ban on non-glass carbonated beverage containers for
some time now and this has, so far, been upheld within the EU.

Joe Strahl

The International Institute for
Industrial Environmental Economics
at Lund University, Sweden

P.O. Box 196, S-221 00 Lund

direct tel. +46 - 46 - 222 02 28
telefax +46 - 46 - 222 02 30