The figures were forwarded to the Lusa news agency by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Inês Santos Costa, on the day that the balance of the three months of the project for the return of non-reusable plastic beverage packaging is done in Porto.

Speaking to Lusa, the official recalled that the project started in March, when the state of emergency started due to the covid-19 pandemic, and that even so, the 23 collection machines each received about 400 bottles per day.

Financed by the Environmental Fund, the project allows for the payment of two cents for a small bottle (up to half a litre) and five cents for the largest (up to two litres), up until now €44,000 have been paid in vouchers, said the secretary of state.

Inês Santos Costa recalled that these vouchers can be used by consumers to use in purchases or to offer to an institution, and said that until now 80 percent of the vouchers have been discounted (for their own consumption or donated to the institution).

The results show that "the system is working" and "it will give a good picture of how the future deposit system can work".

The Secretary of State said that eight contracts are signed for pilot projects for the deposit refund system for bottles of drinks and cans, under the Environment Programme, created following the signing of an agreement between Portugal, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, the so-called EEA Grants.

There are eight €6 million projects, with €5.8 million financed by the EEA Grants, which cover applications that include the deposit of bottles and cans, but also the treatment of these bottles, he explained.

These are “two projects in the area of ??disposable packaging, with an important impact on compliance with the Single Use Plastics Directive” approved by the European Commission in 2018, which provides for the introduction of packaging-related refund systems, and which also has “goals demanding more selective collection systems,” said the Secretary of State.

And she recalled that in the case of PET plastic claws (polyethylene terephthalate, the usual water bottles), a target was set for the collection of 77 percent, by weight, of the bottles that are placed on the market, which must reach 90 percent in 2029, in addition to the bottles incorporating recycled material.

“It makes sense to learn from these pilot projects to understand how to integrate this new system”, said Inês Santos Costa, adding: “The idea is to combine the two pilots to understand the degree of reach and impact that we have achieved with this type of system and how it is compatible with the system that already exists for selective collection of packaging”.

Asked by Lusa if the packaging collection project in supermarkets could soon be extended to the whole country, the minister said that there is a good adhesion and that lessons will be learned from both projects to work on a system that is also compatible with other types of collections that already exist.

Inês Santos Costa said she does not know what percentage of bottles are currently recycled in Portugal, because there is a value for plastic packaging, but she stressed that there will be “very big changes” in terms of calculating goals and that it is necessary to make “a substantial leap”.

The pilot project for discounts for recycling plastic bottles started on 13 March at 23 large commercial areas across the country. The project has financing of €1.66 million.