VOICE is delighted to welcome the announcement of Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), which will become fully operational in February 2024.
Ireland has a long history of returning glass bottles in exchange for some change and was understood as a common-sense approach to keeping precious resources in the loop. Our new DRS will have many more digital and technical elements to it but, essentially, remains the same as the old system, i.e., incentivise people to return these items and they will.
DRS’s are already operational in at least 40 other jurisdictions around the world, with 12 of those in Europe. We are joining an ever-growing group of countries who realise the need for better collection rates for recycling. Indeed, Ireland is aiming to collect over 90% of these containers for recycling by the end of the decade (as mandated by the EU’s Single-Use Plastic Directive) and the deposit return scheme is the most effective and proven way of doing that.
VOICE has long advocated for the DRS for a number of reasons. In addition to increasing our collection rates for recycling, the DRS is good for communities, society, the environment, and businesses. With less containers around littering, we can enjoy cleaner communities and environment. Furthermore, community and charitable organisations can register as collection points. This means that people can decide to their empty containers to these organisations who, in turn, can claim the deposits themselves. Businesses stand to see an increase in footfall as people return their empty containers to their shops. And there will be less waste in our own bins at home, which should also lead to a lowering of costs.
VOICE developed the Return for Change campaign to raise awareness about the DRS. Through this campaign, we have spoken with representatives from most major political parties as well as Local Authorities. We visited many counties around Ireland at the behest of Environmental Awareness Officers to run informational workshops in cities, towns, villages and beaches, and to give people the opportunity to use reverse vending machines, often for the first time. Wherever we have gone, we have come across nearly unanimous support for the scheme.
We are constantly looking to communicate with local community groups so that they may spread information to their members about the DRS but also so that they can understand why it’s being introduced, how to use and the benefits of doing so. Where we cannot visit, we look conduct presentations or webinars remotely.
This is just the start. VOICE wants to see the DRS develop over time so that we can begin to harness its re-use potential. For example, although we have an excellent collection rate for glass bottles in Ireland, it is hugely energy-intensive to smash glass and then heat it into new bottles again. Better that we look to what we used to do: collect, clean and redistribute.
The DRS will allow us to do that.