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Empty Non-Refundable Bottles - IUF Comment 27/2006

Sascha Tamm, IUF

As reported recently by the FAZ, criminals are manipulating the German bottle deposit system on a massive scale in order to make money. They are producing bottles, falsifying the product codes and then returning the phony bottles to supermarkets throughout Germany. This, of course, is a prosecutable criminal offense. Incidentally, retailers and the entire beverage industry should be happy because many new and unused bottles are being delivered directly to their doorsteps.  


Obviously, there is a flaw in the entire system -- even the word "deposit" is misleading. Usually, a deposit is paid for something of value, i.e. an item that the owner would like to have returned. However, the item in question is a non-refundable bottle that cannot be reused even as the name suggests. The incentive for criminals stems from the very low production costs -- much less than one half of the deposit amount. What typically happens in such a well-intentioned state action is: more instead of fewer non-refundable bottles are produced; non-refundable bottles are transported across long distances; creative forms of crimes are invented.  


This is reminiscent of a practice in India, where the government offers a premium for killing venomous snakes if, and only if, the head of the dead snake is given to the authorities. What emerged? You guessed it -- venomous snake farms.  






  • Sascha Tamm, IUF


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