A NATIONAL recycling drive has been launched to turn aluminium cans into cash as startling statistics show that Irish people threw away over 220 million drink cans last year worth ?2.662m.
Approximately 275m cans are produced for the Irish market each year - enough to go three quarters way around the equator - but only one-fifth of them were recycled in 2001. It takes from 50 to 100 years for aluminium cans to decompose in landfill sites.
Yet, such cans are worth six to 30 times more than any other used packaging material. Aluminium is the only packaging material that more than covers the cost of its own collection and processing at recycling centres.
Now Repak has launched the first nationwide can recycling initiative, 'Repak Cash for Cans', in a bid to reverse the situation.
Following the success of a pilot scheme last year where over one million cans were recycled, Repak is now targeting all primary schools with special bags that hold up to 150 cans, aiming to collect and recycle five million cans in 2002.
Under the scheme, local waste contractors will pay schools 60c per bag or 30c per kilogramme.
Repak's Chief Executive, Andrew Hetherington, said: "The recycling of aluminium packaging is a worldwide success with 55pc of the aluminium drink cans sold today being recycled.
"However, the market in Ireland is largely untapped with only about 15-20pc of all aluminium drink cans collected for recycling."
Each local authority countrywide is supporting the Repak initiative. Participating schools will receive posters, bags, pencils, colouring books and certificates. Schools wishing to register can contact the 'Cash for Cans' hotline at 1850 909 999.
Repak is an industry-funded waste packaging compliance scheme established under a voluntary agreement between industry and the Department of the Environment and Local Government.
The scheme exceeded Ireland's national recycling target of 25pc of packaging waste by 2001.