Apply DRS Lessons to Ensure Smooth Rollout of Disposable Cup Levy

Calls for improved business support and infrastructure investment in lead-up to 2025 levy


Ireland– The latest report from Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) reveals that the Deposit Return Scheme(DRS) is effectively reducing plastic bottles (20%), and aluminum cans (30%)litter across the country. However, the report also underscores the urgent need to introduce a levy on disposable coffee cups, as they remain one of the most commonly littered items[i].

"We are heartened to see that the DRS is working," said Tad Kirakowski (CEO of VOICE). "In the lead-up to the introduction of the levy on disposable cups in 2025, we have a unique opportunity to learn from the rollout of Ireland's DRS. While our DRS is making a significant difference, its implementation was far from smooth."

The IBAL report's findings reinforce the importance of implementing the disposable cup levy as quickly as possible to address the ongoing litter issue. "We love to see that the DRS is making a difference, but it's crucial to acknowledge and learn from the challenges faced during its rollout," added Tad Kirakowski. "By doing so, wecan ensure a more efficient and seamless introduction of the levy on disposable cups."

Key Learnings from the DRS Rollout:

1.      Communication with Businesses: The success of the disposable cup levy rollout will hinge on the support of our cafes and businesses. Effective communication is essential, not only from the government to businesses but also in providing businesses a platform to express their concerns, feedback, and challenges.

2.      Minimizing Costs for Businesses: To ensure support, it’s crucial to design a system for collecting levies that is cost-effective and convenient for business owners. This requires thoughtful planning to avoid unnecessary expenses and time commitments.

3.      Transparency and Investment in Infrastructure: While the levies are being ring-fenced for the CircularEconomy Action Fund, it’s vital to have transparency on how these funds are spent. Investments should focus on national infrastructure to support reusable cups, such as facilities that collect, clean, and return reusable cups from street bins to cafes and businesses. Transparency will ensure buy-in from the public.

4.      Momentum: The long-term goal of this levy is to kick-start our society’s shift away from single-use packaging and towards reusables. We want to ensure this plan is clear and sustained. We don’t want this levy to follow the same path as the plastic bag tax from 2002, which was initially successful but lacked subsequent initiatives to reduce plastic packaging, leading to a loss of momentum.


As Ireland progresses in reducing packaging waste, the insights gained from implementing the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) will be crucial for a successful and significant shift towards a circular economy. We recognize that a DRS differs greatly from a levy and will present its unique challenges. Nevertheless, Ireland has successfully navigated similar initiatives before, such as the plastic bag levy. If we get this right, Ireland will set a global standard for environmental stewardship and innovation.