Fianna Fáil Senator in Kildare, Fiona O’Loughlin, has said that smaller retailers cannot be left behind when the new deposit return scheme begins next month.
From February, when a customer purchases a drink featuring the “Re-turn” logo and pays their deposit fee, they will get a full refund on returning the empty, undamaged container to any retail outlet that sells drinks with the Re-turn logo. The drinks containers included in the scheme are PET plastic bottles and aluminium and steel cans between 150mls and 3 litres. A deposit of 15c will apply to containers from 150ml to 500ml inclusive and a deposit of 25c for containers over 500mls to 3 litres inclusive.
According to the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA), around 6,000 supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol stations and newsagents sell eligible beverages, but most have not installed return vending machines for shoppers to drop back their empty containers. Just over 1,800 reverse vending machines are due to go live on February 1 when the scheme begins, the scheme’s operators, Re-turn, have said.
Senator O’Loughlin said: “The introduction of the Deposit Return Scheme from February forms a key part of our national strategy to achieve a circular economy. It is clear that we cannot continue to make, use and throw away. By moving to a circular economy, we can reduce material use and waste. The scheme will reduce litter and combat the impact of single-use plastics on the environment.
“I strongly believe that Irish people recognise the need to move to a circular economy and that they want to recycle and to do the right thing. However, we also need to ensure that we are bringing smaller retailers along with us. I was concerned to see that while around 6,000 retailers will charge the extra deposit fee on drinks, just over 1,800 reverse vending machines are due to go live on the first of February.
“The cost of a reverse vending machine for a retailer is €15,000, which could prove difficult to meet for smaller retailers in particular. Retailers do have the choice of whether they opt for a reverse vending machine or not, and I know Re-turn offers grants to retailers to help with the scheme.
“What I am calling for is for the operator of the scheme, Re-turn, in light of these figures showing the uptake of reverse vending machines, to review the levels of the grants they are providing. It is vital that they are of the level required to help smaller retailers. While I expect an increase in the number of retailers installing reverse vending machines as the go-live date approaches, it is important that smaller ones who may not be able to meet the cost of the machines are supported as much as possible if they wish to install them.”