February 1st, 2024
From today, consumers in Carlow and Kilkenny will have a chance to get ‘cash for trash’ when they recycle their used bottles and cans, thanks to the new ‘deposit and return’ scheme that's been introduced by the Green Party, with my colleague Minister Ossian Smyth leading the charge on this really important initiative. This a long overdue measure which is hugely successful in other European countries, and I believe it's going get huge buy in here and incentivise higher rates of recycling to ensure fewer bottles cans end up as litter on our streets and in our communities.
I’ve done enough litter picks and river clean ups across Kilkenny to know that a shockingly high percentage of the litter in our communities is plastic bottles and cans. This is frustrating because uncontaminated bottles and cans are one of our most recyclable waste items, but it’s also just awful to see our beautiful city, our parks and our riverbanks ruined by litter.
In simple terms, this scheme is going to put a value on that waste, and just like the plastic bag levy years ago made us rethink our throwaway attitude to plastic carrier bags, the deposit and return scheme will dramatically increase the amount of plastic bottles and cans we recycle. Many of us are well used to recycling our bottles and cans at home so you might ask why we need to go to this extra length, but the fact is currently only 23% of plastic bottles are recycled in Ireland and that's an extraordinarily low rate.
We have an obligation under EU Waste Directives to increase that, and the results of deposit and return schemes in other European Countries show they are the most effective way to do it. We want to achieve a 90% recycling rate and when you consider the plastic bag levy reduced our consumption of plastic bags by 95%, I think that's achievable.
Participating in the scheme couldn’t be simpler. You've probably seen the new reverse vending machines appear in local stores over the last few months, and from today, these 'Green Machines' will accept bottles and cans with the ‘Re-turn’ logo. If you don't know where your nearest machine is located you can find participating stores listed on Re-turn.ie. Then just go to your local store, pop any plastic bottles and cans with the Re-turn logo into the machine, and you’ll get your deposit back. There’s no sign up required, it’s simple and convenient, and similar schemes have had great success in Europe.
Over 4,000 retailers have signed up to participate in the scheme and 3,500 reverse vending machines are being installed across the country. The scheme is funded by a deposit of 15c on plastic bottles and cans of 500ml or less and 25c on containers larger than 500ml. This deposit is claimed back by returning the containers to any participating store, even if they were bought in a different store. Consumers can choose between receiving the deposit as a store voucher or as cash.
It’s estimated that 1.9 billion plastic bottles and cans are bought every year in Ireland. If we achieve our goal of a 90% recycling rate, that’s hundreds of millions of bottles and cans taken off our streets or out of landfill. We’ll have cleaner communities, less plastic polluting our beaches and endangering wildlife, and a cleaner, less contaminated stream of waste going straight to recycling. Visit Re-turn.ie for more information.