Green light for vending machines that give cash for old cans and bottles

The new reverse vending machines will pay cash for old cans and bottles

John Downing

Plastic bottles and aluminium cans will soon be redeemable via money-back deposits at a supermarket car park near you.

The Government has this weekend formally waived the planning permission requirement on “reverse vending machines” at supermarket car parks meaning they will be widely in place by next February.

Changes mean higher prices of between 15 and 25 cents for cans and plastic bottles – but these extra costs can be reclaimed when the receptacle is returned.

Junior Minister Ossian Smyth, the minister of state responsible for technology, expects about €360m per year will be reclaimed via vouchers in the shops concerned.

The project has already been piloted in 15 supermarkets countrywide and has resulted in a public take-up rate that was larger than expected.

It is believed the speed of the Irish rollout may be helped by the availability of “reverse vending machines” from Scotland, which has had to delay the introduction of a similar scheme, from a start-date next August due to tensions with the London government.

The new scheme would see the introduction of a redeemable 15c deposit on bottles and cans under 500cl, with a 25c deposit/return on receptacles over 500cl.

“The scheme is likely to have huge public participation and the incentive of cash-back will help,” Mr Smyth told

“People will also have the opportunity to gift their return deposit to charity – but given the large sums involved here, we will have to work hard on devising a fair and practical system of sharing this.

“A similar scheme has been in operation in Germany for about 20 years and the Green Party has been behind this idea for quite some time.

“It is a feature of daily life in Nordic countries for many decades.”

Mr Smyth welcomed the participation of the major supermarket chains – SuperValu, Lidl, Dunnes, Aldi, Centra and Tesco – in a well-received pilot run in 15 diverse centres including Drogheda, Co Louth; Claremorris, Co Mayo, and Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

“I now look forward to their participation in a scheme which will recycle some 1.9 million plastic bottles and aluminium cans used each year,” he said.

Last month the new Scottish First Minister, Humza Yousaf, conceded that Scotland’s scheme would have to be delayed as he set out his priorities for the next three years but he expressed the hope it may be launched later next spring.

Others in the Edinburgh administration expressed doubts about whether an August rollout was ready at all events.

Mr Yousaf said there was “uncertainty” because the UK government had delayed a decision on whether to exclude the scheme from its new Internal Market Act being put in place after Brexit.

The London government’s Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, had previously hinted that the UK government might not grant a Scotland opt-out necessary for the scheme which may be deemed at risk of causing cross-­border trade barriers via differing prices from England and Wales.