Belgians Take Coke Bottles to Netherlands

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Thrifty Belgians are causing a headache for Dutch supermarkets by gathering large numbers of plastic Coca Cola bottles and bringing them across the border to the Netherlands to collect the deposit, Dutch media reported Tuesday.

The scheme takes advantage of a recent move by Coke’s Dutch arm to introduce new bottles that are identical to the ones used in Belgium — but the Dutch bottles carry a euro0.25 (US$0.30) deposit.

While the Netherlands’ NOS television reported that Belgians were bringing bottles across the border in “massive” numbers, a Coke spokeswoman downplayed the story.

“There are incidents, but I probably wouldn’t use the word ‘massive’,” Marte van Esser said.

Coke raised its Dutch prices by 30 to 40 percent on average Jan. 30, when the bottles were introduced. The company is attempting to recover from a two-year price war in Dutch supermarkets that left its products selling near the same price as in-house brands.

Sija de Jong, a spokeswoman for the supermarket industry group CBL, said she doubted any bottle-returners were becoming millionaires.

“It’s a sporadic phenomenon, but it’s obviously an annoyance for the supermarkets,” she said.