Drink cans and bottles will be returnable for cash from next year as part of a countrywide scheme to reduce litter and increase recycling.
Legislation underpinning the ‘deposit return scheme’ was published yesterday and paves the way for the appointment of operators to run it.
Under the scheme, drinks in plastic bottles and aluminium and steel cans sold in shops and takeaways will have an additional payment built into the price.
It will be a deposit that buyers can claim back when they return the container to any retailer taking part in the scheme, or to designated receptacles in public places.
The value of the deposit is not specified in the regulations published by Environment Minister Eamon Ryan but it has been indicated that 20c is the figure in mind.
The regulations state that it must be high enough to attract people to return the containers, and to cover running costs, but not so high that it brings in excess revenue as the scheme is intended as a non-profit venture.
Irish consumers go through millions of cans and bottles every year but only around 60pc of them are recycled.
The rest are either tossed away as litter or put in general waste bins and incinerated.
Only bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are included in the scheme as it is a high-quality, recyclable material, but that covers the vast majority of drinks bottles.
Aluminium cans are a prized recyclable as the metal can be used repeatedly without losing quality. Containers of up to three litres in volume will be accepted.
Environmental group, Voice Ireland, which has long campaigned for measures to improve recycling rates, welcomed the development.
Commercial waste collectors have expressed concern, however, that the scheme will hit their viability or drive up household collection costs by diverting the valuable recyclables from domestic green bins.
The scheme is due to come into effect by autumn of next year, but an operator must be found first to run it.
The successful applicant will get a 10-year contract, subject to review after year three.
All producers of bottles and cans relevant to the scheme will have to register with the scheme and pay for their participation.
Containers will be marked to show they are returnable and state what the deposit is, while retailers will record the deposit separately on receipts.
Local authorities will enforce the rules of the scheme.