Ireland is preparing to change the way that it recycles, with its upcoming deposit return scheme. Mark Brill, VP of sales and marketing with reverse-vending company TOMRA Collection UK and Ireland, looks at what this change means for retailers.
It is estimated that Ireland generates about three billion single-use plastic bottles and over 582 million aluminium cans each year.
However, according to VOICE (Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment) Ireland, only around 60% of these bottles and cans are collected for recycling.
To tackle this challenge, Ireland is preparing to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS).
In a deposit return scheme, a deposit is placed on single-use drinks containers and refunded to the consumer when s/he returns the bottles and cans for recycling.
The aim of a DRS is to increase recycling rates and reduce drinks container litter.
Ireland’s deposit return scheme is an exciting step in the country’s transition to a more circular economy.
It will also represent a shift in how shoppers interact with retailers when it comes to sustainability. Once the scheme goes live, retailers will have a much more visible and vital role in the recycling process.
Q: How does a DRS work?
A: In a deposit return scheme, consumers pay a refundable deposit when purchasing their drink.
They then receive it back when they return the bottle or can to a designated return point.
Once the bottles and cans are collected, the scheme operator will pick them up and send them for recycling.
An easy way to think about it is that consumers are ‘buying the drink and borrowing the bottle’.
Q: What will retailers’ role be?
A: Ireland’s deposit return scheme is set to be a ‘return-to-retail scheme’. This means that retailers will play a vital role and run a return point in their stores for consumers to return their bottles and cans.
There are two ways of offering a return point: manual take-back or using a reverse vending machine.
With manual take-back, retailers accept bottles back over the counter and scan and store them for collection.
With a reverse vending machine, the machine automates the process: scanning the containers, storing them, and paying out the deposit.
In other countries around the world, retailers who sell larger volumes of drinks containers usually see a benefit when automating returns with a reverse vending machine.
Q: How does a reverse vending machine work?
A: Drinks containers are inserted into the chute at the front of the machine, and the machine will scan the container’s bar code, material and shape, to check that it is part of the deposit return scheme.
The machine will usually crush the containers, and these will then be stored in bins inside the machine.
Once the shopper has recycled all their containers, they can choose to receive the money back in the form of a voucher or to donate to charity. Some schemes offer digital payment options.
Q: How can retailers prepare?
A: For those retailers considering using a reverse vending machine to collect containers, start thinking about where a machine could go in your store.
TOMRA offers machines as small as 0.6 square metres, reducing how much space is needed.
Retailers will receive a handling fee from the scheme administrator for every eligible container that they collect.
This handling fee is designed to cover the costs associated with the DRS.
The deposit return scheme will be a change for retailers in Ireland, but DRS is a tried-and-tested system that is running successfully in many countries, including Norway, Sweden, Finland and Germany, amongst others.
In these countries, retailers successfully provide this recycling service for their shoppers, and consumers now expect it to be an integral part of the overall shopping experience.
To find out more about deposit return schemes and reverse-vending technology, visit TOMRA.com.