NETHERLANDS – Heineken, one of the largest brewers by volume in the world, is facing a criminal investigation after allegedly failing to meet the deadline for switching to deposit cans as mandated by local regulations.
Environmental organization Recycling Netwerk Benelux accused Heineken of breaking the Economic Offenses Act by “very calculatingly” putting its own economic interests above society’s.
The Public Prosecution Service (OM) in Amsterdam saw sufficient leads to launch a criminal investigation, AD reports.
The investigation, launched by Dutch authorities, is a significant blow to the company’s reputation and raises concerns about its environmental commitment.
The Netherlands, known for its progressive environmental policies, has long been advocating for sustainable practices in the beverage industry.
To reduce single-use plastic waste and encourage recycling, the government passed legislation requiring all beverage manufacturers to shift to deposit cans by April 1.
Consumers pay an extra 15 cents when buying a canned beverage and get that money back when they return the cans, thereby incentivizing recycling and reducing littering. The Dutch government aims to recycle about 2 billion cans a year.
Days before the deposit law took effect, it became clear that Heineken had no intention of meeting the deadline and was still producing old cans.
The beer giant claimed it was a misunderstanding as it thought there was a transition period of three months.
Government inspectors, however, told the company there was no transition period and ordered it to stop or face a €1 million fine, at which point the brewing group complied.
A Heineken spokesman said the company is confident of a positive outcome of the investigation as it “complied with the rule,” but didn’t say when it did so.
Organizations that have been pushing for more sustainable practices in the beverage industry argue that companies like Heineken must be held accountable for their environmental responsibilities.
They emphasize that the deposit system has proven to be an effective tool in reducing waste and increasing recycling rates and compliance with such regulations is essential for mitigating the environmental impact of beverage packaging.
Regarding circularity, Heineken has pledged to eliminate sending waste to landfills from its 166 production sites by 2025.
The company adds that it will accelerate returnable packaging and will continue to develop innovative packaging, which replaces single-use plastic rings in multipack cans, saving 500 tonnes of plastic every year.