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Ireland DRS: Businesses rush to prepare for mandatory national bottle return scheme

#Ireland DRS: Businesses rush to prepare for mandatory national bottle return scheme

Man placing empty beverage bottle in reverse  vending machine.
(All image credits: Reconomy).

23 Jan 2024 — Time is running out for businesses to prepare to implement Ireland’s deposit return scheme (DRS), according to Reconomy, an international circular economy specialist providing sustainability technology, data and services to a range of industries.

From February 01, consumers will pay a small deposit when they buy a drink in a plastic bottle, aluminum or steel can with the “Re-turn” logo. Upon return of the container — which must be empty and undamaged — to any retail outlet, the deposit will be returned in full.

All eligible containers will display the Re-turn logo to make it easy for consumers to identify what is included in the scheme. The scheme includes plastic bottles with a capacity between 150 mL and 3 L and aluminum and steel cans with a capacity between 150 mL and 3 L, Travis Way, managing director at EcoVend by Reconomy, the company providing reverse vending machines (RVMs), tells Packaging Insights.

Scheme awareness as main challenge
Way stresses that it is important that businesses are aware of DRS as the regulations were announced in 2021, and so they should be fully ready to support the scheme and help consumers navigate it.

“The main challenge will be ensuring there is enough awareness of how the scheme works to ensure that only containers with the Re-turn Logo are returned as container purchases prior to the scheme going live should not be accepted,” he says.

 A reverse vending machine with advertisement on display.Way stresses the main challenge for a successful DRS is to ensure awareness of how the scheme works.“Retailers that are not prepared for the scheme face a reputational hit that could damage long-term customer traffic,” warns Way.

The new scheme brings together all parties involved in the manufacturing, selling and consumption of beverages. DRS has proven to be successful across countries, increasing collection rates to over 90% in states that implemented similar schemes.

Supporting returns with interactive map
DRS aims to transform recycling rates in Ireland and follows hot on the heels of similar schemes being rolled out globally. The EU has set Ireland a target to separate and collect 77% of plastic beverage bottles by 2025, rising to 90% in 2029.

There will be return points all across Ireland to make it as convenient as possible for consumers to return their empty containers and encourage positive, long-term behaviors, explains Way.

“To make it even more accessible for consumers, when the scheme is launched in February, Re-turn (the scheme administrator) will have an interactive map that shows the locations throughout the country where consumers can return their drinks container and get the deposit back in full.”

Way says that retailers have the choice to opt for either manual return or automatic collection through RVMs.

Boosted accessibility
Deposit return schemes will create substantial benefits in helping Ireland transition to a more circular economy. Alongside improving recycling rates, it should create a virtuous circle in encouraging innovation within the resource management and materials sectors alongside an evolution in consumers’ attitudes toward waste, highlights Way.

“RVMs aim to support the implementation of DRS by providing an automatic method for retailers to process collection. There is significant innovation within this market as, for example, EcoVend has introduced an eye-catching design to maximize user engagement on its machines alongside fully touchless operation to help virus control and step by step user voice command for accessibility,” he asserts.

Way says that the design is easy to access and remove the bins with the machine sending a message when it is time to be emptied.

“There are commercial benefits for businesses and retailers through RVMs with EcoVend introducing advertising opportunities on its multimedia screens on the RVM. Effective implementation of DRS, with reverse vending machines to automate the processes should help businesses improve customer loyalty and retention, accelerate data-gathering capabilities and protect a retailer’s reputation,” he concludes.

By Natalie Schwertheim

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