The claims are being made in relation to the delay in bringing in a deposit system, however the Environment minister, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, has said that the system will be in place by the end of the year.
“The situation harms both the country and the circular economy”, said the Sciaena association, focused on promoting the improvement of the marine environment, Zero and ANP/WWF (Associação Natureza Portugal, which represents the international World Wide Fund for Nature in Portugal) in a statement.
The deposit system with return (SDR) for disposable packaging of plastic, glass, aluminium and ferrous metals was approved by the Portuguese Parliament in 2018 and should be operational at the beginning of 2022 but the organisations estimate that it will not be operational before January 2023.
The organisations recall the approval of the law at the end of 2018, by a large majority, and explain in a statement, why they are concerned, stating that the law has not yet been regulated nor are there “any signs” that it will be and European legislation requires a period of at least one year, after regulation, for it to come into force.
“As the implementation of the SDR is already expected to be delayed by a year at this point, this will mean the waste of around 1.5 billion packages! The Minister (of the Environment) Matos Fernandes must act quickly to ensure that there will be no further delays”, stress the organisations.
They explain that if four million containers are thrown away every day, that means that in a year 1.473,609,427 drinks containers (the equivalent of 250 Towers of Belém, (according to environmentalists) “will go into landfill, be incinerated or spread in the environment”.
“The SDR is a fundamental tool for the fulfilment of several EU targets (recycling and reuse)” and “the Portuguese have already shown, in several representative studies, their broad support for this idea, and look forward to its implementation”, stress the organisations.
In response to the claims, the Environment minister has said that he hopes to regulate the packaging collection system by the end of the year, but will wait until after the local elections have been conducted before implementing any system.
In his response, João Pedro Matos Fernandes began by saying that there are environmentalists who “take the existence of a Ministry of the Environment badly”.
“By the end of this year, we will have structured a system for the storage of bottles. We launched a pilot project that went very well and we now have to comply with the law. The law will be enforced, although I cannot swear that on December 31 the system will be enforced and will be working,” he said.
He added that the Government currently has doubts regarding the systems for depositing packaging, especially bottles.
“We obviously have to separate them and reuse them as much as possible, but the recycling systems are based on the collection that is produced by the municipalities and by aggregated municipal systems. And there is a question here that I don’t know how to answer, the question of should we have a completely isolated license, like Sociedade Ponto Verde, to take care of this process, or should we use the systems that already exist?”, he asked.
The Environment Minister later defended preferentially the idea of creating “an autonomous system”, but warned that he did not intend to “take away revenue from anyone”.
“This is a discussion that must involve the local authorities and at this moment, before the elections, is not the best moment to do it. Right after the local elections we will certainly close the issue”, he concluded.