Majority support all drinks containers in deposit-return scheme

Plastic bottles Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Almost nine in ten people believe all drinks containers should be included in Ireland’s deposit return scheme (DRS), a survey has found.

The poll by environment charity Voice Ireland found 88% favour an “all-in” model to tackle Ireland’s waste crisis.

It showed a majority of Irish people support the inclusion of metal cans, plastic water bottles, plastic milk bottles, glass bottles, coffee cups and drink cartons and pouches.

The Irish Government is set to introduce a DRS for drinks containers in 2021, with a proposed model where consumers pay a deposit on all PET plastic drinks bottles and aluminium cans.

Research found that the public want the scheme broadened significantly to include as wide a selection of materials as possible.

Recycling rates for glass in Ireland, which is currently excluded from the scheme, reduced from 86% to 78% between 2018 and 2019, while few of the 200 million single-use coffee cups used each year are recycled.

Some 78% of those questioned also said they backed the introduction of a variable deposit fee, where consumers pay a deposit that varies based on the size and material of the container.

Campaigners want a higher deposit levied on plastic drinks bottles (one litre and above) than the current 20 cents charge on drinks containers proposed by the Government.

Opinion was relatively consistent across the age ranges of those questioned, with 90% of 25 to 34-year-olds calling for a scheme that includes as many drinks containers as possible.

The Government is currently consulting on the design of the scheme.

Last year Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) found five in six of Ireland’s beaches and waterways are not considered clean enough to meet European standards, and drinks containers of all materials contribute to more than a quarter of litter found, by weight.

Our neighbourhoods, beaches and waterways are under siege from throwaway containers

Mindy O’Brien, Voice Ireland

Meanwhile the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment estimates litter cost local authorities a combined 107 million euro in 2018. Dublin accounted for 30% of that cost alone.

Mindy O’Brien, co-ordinator at Voice Ireland, said: “Our neighbourhoods, beaches and waterways are under siege from throwaway containers of all materials, including thousands of plastic and glass bottles, cans and coffee cups.

“We must do this at the beginning of the programme so that we don’t create market disruptions that could sway producers and consumers away from more sustainable materials towards less environmentally suitable material solely because it is not included in the DRS, or because the deposit was less expensive.

“We hope that this DRS will morph into a system that facilitates the take-back of reusable containers, such as glass bottles, to be collected, cleaned, refilled and reused over and over again.

“Not only is this good for the environment, but this is good for local business, keeping jobs in Ireland.”

Oisin Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth Ireland, said: “We’ve called for a deposit scheme in Ireland for years, but now we risk shooting ourselves in the foot by creating a programme that is nowhere near comprehensive enough.”