Over two million drinks containers have been returned in the first month since Ireland introduced its national deposit return scheme, its operator Re-turn reports.

200,999 containers are said to have been returned on 29th February 2024, making it the active day on record so far. However, the figure is set to rise daily as consumers become more familiar with the scheme – a development from Every Can Counts’ previous suggestion that 29% of Irish consumers were unsure how to use it.

“I am greatly encouraged to see how the scheme is taking hold in Ireland and we have consumers to thank for that,” said Ciaran Foley, chief executive officer of Re-turn. “We have made great strides when it comes to implementing the scheme and over the weekend alone, we collected over 670,000 containers. This figure will only continue to grow.

“We are committed to delivering the Deposit Return Scheme and helping Ireland reach its recycling targets of 77% by 2025 and early indications suggest we could reach this ahead of schedule.”

Currently, 2193 reverse vending machines are available to consumers across the 1380 return locations in Ireland. It is hoped that the deposit return scheme will improve separate collection and recycling rates for single-use drinks containers across the country, with the EU setting a target to separate and collect 77% of plastic beverage bottles and aluminium cans by 2025 – a figure that will rise to 90% in 2029.

According to Re-turn, it recycles 60% of drinks containers as of this announcement. It uplifts deposit return as a ‘proven method of increasing recycling rates’.

“We hugely appreciate everyone’s patience during the four-month transition period as retailers sell through older not-in-scope stock,” Foley continued. “We also are mindful of the confusion that non-logo stock with international barcodes have caused.

“Rest assured, any consumer who pays a deposit on a drinks container, with or without a logo, during the transition phase will receive a full refund of the deposit when they return the item clean and undamaged to a Reverse Vending Machine in participating shops and supermarkets nationwide.

“From the 1st of June, all drink containers in plastic bottles or aluminium cans from 150ml to 3 litres will feature the Re-turn logo and will be accepted by a Reverse Vending Machine.”

Fifteen European countries have implemented deposit return schemes so far, and Re-turn claims that Ireland’s initial participation rates are ‘very strong’ in comparison to other successful launches. It raises the example of Romania, which launched its scheme on 1st December 2023; it is thought to have collected 31,000 containers in its first month of operation, 2.24 million in its second month, and 5 million within the first two weeks of February.

Two years after it was introduced, the Latvian deposit return scheme has achieved an 80% return rate, according to Depozīta Iepakojuma Operators (DIO). Therefore, it claims to have exceeded the 77% target set for plastic bottles by 2025 in the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive.

In our recent edition of The Brief, we have provided a comprehensive overview of the deposit return scheme landscape; its status in EU legislation, where such systems have been introduced so far, and the conversations it has sparked in the packaging industry.

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