Ireland Introduces national Deposit Return Scheme

Ireland has launched its Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), a nationwide initiative offering incentives for recycling plastic drinks bottles and aluminium cans. This increases pressure on the UK Government to follow suit.

Ireland Introduces national Deposit Return Scheme

From today (1 February), when a customer purchases a drink in a plastic bottle or aluminium can bearing the Re-turn logo, they will be charged a small deposit in addition to the drink’s price. Upon returning their empty and undamaged container to any participating retail outlet, the customer will receive a full refund of their deposit.

Containers ranging from 150ml to 500ml will incur a 15-cent deposit, while containers between 500ml and 3 litres will have a 25-cent deposit.

Nearly five million drinks are consumed in single-use containers in Ireland daily.

The DRS, part of the Programme for Government 2020, seeks to substantially reduce the volume of littered bottles and cans, as well as those sent to landfills or incineration.

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure Ossian Smyth said: “We know DRS works —it operates effectively in more than 40 countries around the world, including 15 in Europe, where the average EU collection rate is 92%.

“By giving these containers a financial value, it incentivises consumers to return them. I think people in Ireland will really get behind this scheme and make it a great success.”

The scheme will be managed by DRS Ireland (DRSI) CLG, known as Re-turn, appointed by Minister Smyth in 2022.

Diverse channels for deposit refunds

Re-turn will manage the development of more than 2,000 return points, with both larger and select smaller retailers installing Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) for automated deposit returns. Nearly 200 smaller retailers will handle returns manually over the counter.

RVMs will issue customers vouchers redeemable at the checkout or as cash refunds. Customers are advised not to crush or squeeze plastic bottles and cans.

Additionally, starting 1 June, non-Re-turn logo branded stock will be phased out from stores, limiting consumers to purchasing drinks requiring a deposit.

Re-turn’s chief executive officer Ciaran Foley said: “The introduction of this scheme brings numerous exciting benefits to Ireland — it increases recycling rates, reduces litter, lowers emissions, prevents waste and eases the strain on our natural resources.

“The introduction of Deposit Return is a proven method of increasing recycling rates, with great success in a number of other European countries. Together, we’re going to make a significant impact on our environment.”

Setbacks in the UK’s DRS rollout

In late 2018, the UK Government committed to implementing the DRS to enhance recycling rates for drinks packaging. However, within 18 months of its announcement, most environmental policymaking in the UK came to a standstill as Whitehall resources were diverted to managing the Covid-19 crisis.

As lockdown measures eased and the pandemic became less prominent on the Ministerial agenda, retailers began advocating for further delays to the DRS due to the cost-of-living crisis.

As a result, the nationwide rollout of the DRS in the UK has been pushed back to early 2025. Additionally, Scotland, initially planning to launch its own version first in Britain, has also postponed its introduction to March this year, prompting backlash from green groups.

City to Sea’s policy manager Steve Hynd said: “While the Irish will now be effectively recycling their 1.9 billion drink bottles and cans consumed on the go, in the UK we are still seeing too many of them littered.

“We were promised a DRS by the Conservatives in 2019 but it has been delayed time and time again. The can has been kicked down the road until after the next General Election.

“These delays are trashing our countryside and waterways, and they’re delaying the crucial investment we need to see in infrastructure that will allow for bottles and containers to be reused.”

In the UK, approximately 14 billion plastic beverage bottles and nine billion beverage cans are used annually.

Comments (2)

  1. Peter Reineck says:

    When did the UK start to follow Irish regulatory trends?

  2. Richard Phillips says:

    This policy should have been in force years ago, no argument.
    And it should also cover a range of other plastic containers.
    Today my wife and I took a black sack of plastic containers to the local tip, can such a mixture be recycled? I understand that some packaging is multilayer, different plastics for preservation purposes.
    Time for a little science here, I think, a little chemistry and physics, perhaps. Perhaps our politicians should ask their own scientists, they exist, I was one once!

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