REVERSE vending machines to allow shoppers return plastic bottles and aluminium drink cans for a reward are to be rolled out countrywide.
The system is part of the Government’s new deposit and return scheme aimed at preventing recyclable drink containers ending up in rubbish bins or as street litter.
A public consultation will begin shortly and a number of variations on the scheme will be offered for comment, but the basic idea is that machines will be installed at shops and other publicly accessible places for use by customers and the general public.
People can drop in a bottle or can as they finish using it or collect a bundle of them at home to bring in one visit.
In return, they will get a reward, most likely in the form of a voucher for use in the shop hosting the drop-off point or in a wider range of outlets.
The value of the reward will be built into the price of the item when bought. The values have not yet been decided but a pilot project in Monaghan last year found a 10 cent reward attracted a higher level of use than anticipated, although those shoppers did not have to pay the higher price at the start.
The scheme will need agreement with retailers and recycling firms and once a model is finalised, legislation will be required to implement it. Autumn 2022 is the target date for its introduction.
The deposit and return scheme is one of 200 measures in the new national Waste Action Plan published this morning.
A penalty on use of disposable coffee cups, the so-called latte levy, will be introduced next year in an effort to reduce the 200 million used in Ireland annually, and down the line a new law banning their use in sit-down settings is likely. Similar restrictions are flagged for cold drink cups.
Multi-packs of food also face a ban, particularly fresh foods that shoppers are incentivised to buy through two-for-one style offers but then often don’t get to eat before they spoil.
A range of single-use plastic items will be banned from next July along with oxo-degradable plastic materials – the kind designed to break up easily for faster decomposition but which in fact add to the long-lasting problem of microplastics in the environment.
All waste collection companies are to have their permits reviewed and have recycling targets incorporated into their conditions of operation, beginning with a 55pc recycling requirement by 2025.
By putting them under pressure, the hope is that companies will push their customers to sort and segregate their waste better, and also make it easier for customers to do that by providing better facilities, particularly for segregating food waste and especially for residents in apartment complexes.
It will be compulsory for manufacturers to belong to extended producer responsibility schemes such as the battery recycling, WEEE, end of life tyre and car schemes currently in operation. Self-compliance will no longer be allowed.
Levies are proposed for the use of virgin plastics to encourage manufacturers to incorporate more recycled plastics in their products. A similar approach to virgin construction materials is signalled.
A ban on placing textiles in household bins is likely, but that would require the provision of extra recycling facilities.
Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan said the real aim was to end ‘fast fashion’ so that fewer cheap textiles were produced and dumped in quick succession.
“We don’t want people to have to spend more on clothing,” he stressed. “We want them to choose quality over quantity.”
Mr Ryan said the focus of waste policy had to shift from managing waste disposal to preventing its creation in the first place, by ending excess production, producing goods that last and using materials that could be repeatedly recycled – principles termed the ‘circular economy’.
Preventing waste is essential for a cleaner environment but also for minimising excessive energy and fuel use in manufacturing, transport, refrigeration and disposal, all of which produce carbon emissions and exacerbate the climate crisis.
“We all know that our current model of production and consumption is unsustainable in terms of resource use, waste disposal, climate change and loss of biodiversity,” the Minister said.
“What we need to do is rethink our relationship with our stuff – how we produce it, use it and dispose of it. This plan sets out how we will go about that in a way that benefits people and planet.”
Ireland produces around 15 million tonnes of waste each year, equating to 3.2 tonnes for every person. One million tonne of that is wasted food.
The Environmental Protection Agency meanwhile found that 70pc of material dumped in general waste bins by businesses actually belonged recycling or brown bins.