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What is the deposit return for cans and plastic bottles system for retailers in Ireland?

Written by

David McDonnell

Published

June 26, 2024

Category

Legislation

For retailers, the deposit return scheme brings both opportunities and responsibilities. But what is it, and what does it mean for retailers in Ireland?

Ireland has embarked on an ambitious journey to improve its recycling rates and reduce environmental waste through the implementation of a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for cans and plastic bottles.

This system, already successful in many European countries, incentivises consumers to return their beverage containers by offering a financial reward.

Let’s look at what the DRS entails and what it means for retailers in Ireland.

What is the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)?

The Deposit Return Scheme is a system where consumers pay a small deposit on beverage containers (like cans and plastic bottles) when they purchase a drink. This deposit is refunded when they return the empty container to a collection point, usually located in retail stores. The aim is to encourage recycling and reduce litter by providing a financial incentive to consumers.

How Does the DRS Work?

  1. Purchase and Deposit: When consumers buy a beverage, they pay a deposit in addition to the price of the drink. This deposit is typically a few cents per container.
  2. Return: After consuming the beverage, consumers bring the empty container back to a designated return point, which could be a reverse vending machine or a manual return system in participating stores.
  3. Refund: Upon returning the container, consumers receive their deposit back. This can be in the form of cash, a voucher, or store credit.

Key Components of Ireland’s DRS

  • Eligible Containers: The scheme covers a range of beverage containers, including plastic bottles (PET) and aluminum cans, typically ranging from small to medium sizes.
  • Deposit Value: The deposit amount is set by the government and is designed to be significant enough to encourage returns without being overly burdensome.
  • Return Points: Retailers who sell these beverages are required to act as return points. They can install reverse vending machines (RVMs) or use manual collection methods to facilitate returns.

Responsibilities of Retailers

  1. Providing Return Points: Retailers must provide facilities for consumers to return their empty containers. This could involve setting up reverse vending machines or establishing a manual collection system.
  2. Managing Returns: Retailers are responsible for ensuring that returned containers are handled properly and stored until they are collected by recycling companies.
  3. Refunding Deposits: Retailers must refund the deposit to consumers when they return eligible containers. This can be done in cash, vouchers, or store credit.
  4. Communication and Education: Retailers play a crucial role in informing consumers about the DRS. Clear signage and instructions should be provided to ensure that customers understand how to participate in the scheme.
  5. Reporting and Compliance: Retailers must comply with reporting requirements, keeping records of deposits collected and refunded. This helps in the monitoring and evaluation of the scheme's effectiveness.

Benefits for Retailers

  • Increased Foot Traffic: Retailers can benefit from increased foot traffic as consumers return containers to claim their deposits. This can lead to additional purchases and increased sales.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Participating in the DRS enhances a retailer’s reputation as an environmentally responsible business, appealing to eco-conscious consumers.
  • Operational Efficiency: Reverse vending machines streamline the return process, making it efficient and reducing the burden on staff.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Initial Setup Costs: Implementing the DRS may require an initial investment in reverse vending machines or adapting space for manual returns.
  • Operational Logistics: Retailers must manage the logistics of handling, storing, and coordinating the pickup of returned containers.
  • Consumer Education: Ensuring consumers are aware of and understand how to use the DRS is essential for its success.

Ireland’s Deposit Return Scheme for cans and plastic bottles is a significant step towards a more sustainable future. For retailers, it presents a unique opportunity to contribute to environmental conservation while potentially boosting business through increased customer visits. By understanding their responsibilities and leveraging the benefits, retailers can play a pivotal role in the success of this innovative recycling initiative.

Methodolgy

Ireland’s Deposit Return Scheme for cans and plastic bottles is a significant step towards a more sustainable future. For retailers, it presents a unique opportunity to contribute to environmental conservation while potentially boosting business through increased customer visits. By understanding their responsibilities and leveraging the benefits, retailers can play a pivotal role in the success of this innovative recycling initiative.

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David McDonnell

With a career spanning 40 years in FMCG, marketing, trading and field sales management, Visual ID is in safe hands with Dave as Managing Director. He’s responsible for the commercial, financial, sales and marketing and personnel functions of the company. In his down time he loves to spend time with his friends and family, gardening, walking and has a huge interest in modern and classic cars.

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