The number of people installing reverse osmosis systems in their homes has spiked over the past month as people seek alternatives to bottled water to avoid the “hassle” and added cost brought about by the new recycling scheme, according to suppliers.
“Over the past month the number of installations of reverse osmosis systems has doubled,” reverse osmosis technician Rueben Camilleri said.
“There is a huge interest. When people call to have the system installed many complain about the new recycling system.”
Stephanie Fenech, from Attards Household Goods and Appliances, agreed.
“This month we saw a tripling in requests which was boosted due to the Black Friday offers that came at the right time for people. Many are complaining that the new scheme is a waste of time and a hassle,” she said.
Home filtration systems are also eligible for a measure of government support: a refund grant offers users up to €70 back on their purchase price.
How the recycling scheme works
The Beverage Container Refund Scheme (BCRS) – run by a consortium made up of the country’s largest beverage manufacturers and importers – came into force last month.
Customers pay an additional 10c per beverage container, including beer cans and plastic water or soft drink bottles.
Consumers must then dispose of the containers at one of the 320 reverse vending machines across the country to get a 10c voucher. Bottles or tins must not be crushed when inserted into the machines.
BCRS receives the 10c per container as soon as it is placed on the market but keeps the fee for any containers that are not recycled. It says it will reinvest all profits into the scheme.
Complaints about system
Over the past weeks people have complained that the bins are often full or that they do not accept all bottles. Consumers raised issues about the hassle of having to store the uncrushed bottles at home and carry them to the bins, which is not possible for people with mobility problems such as the elderly and those with disabilities.
This is leading to them having to forfeit their deposit which, in the case of low earners, makes a difference, particularly during a wider cost-of-living crisis.
A spokesperson for BCRS said the scheme is still in its initial stages, so an element of disruption is inevitable and “we are working to iron out any issues as container return patterns become more established”.
He stressed that it was the government which determined Malta should switch from a home collection system to a more focused return scheme due to more stringent EU targets being introduced on recycling.
The scheme is still in its initial stages, so an element of disruption is inevitable… we are working to iron out any issues as container return patterns become more established- spokesperson for BCRS
Bad news for soft drinks?
Times of Malta spoke to several reverse osmosis suppliers, who all confirmed that their workload had increased since the scheme started. A reverse osmosis system helps to purify tap water for drinking use.
There was also a reported increase in people opting for water dispenser systems to do away with bottled water.
Economist Marie Briguglio said it comes at little surprise that the extra cost of purchasing, storing, transporting, waiting and scanning would lead people to look for alternatives such as water filters, reverse osmosis and large bottle delivery services.
“Incentives to make these affordable to low-income groups will find strong uptake at this time,” she said.
The scheme may also lead to the reduction of consumption in soft drinks, which, she argued, is not a bad thing in the context of the country’s high obesity rate.
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