Ireland Urged to Include Glass Bottles in DRS

Glass bottles should be included in Ireland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) in a bid to tackle the country’s waste crisis, according to Danish experts. 

The calls were made during a Best Practice Workshop, which explored how Ireland’s DRS (to be introduced in 2022) can be as effective as possible. The workshop was attended by experts from Denmark’s DRS scheme, which boasts high collection and recycling rates for drinks containers.

A second consultation on the scheme is currently underway, with a draft design where consumers pay a variable deposit fee on all PET plastic drinks bottles and aluminium cans.   This deposit is paid upon purchase of the drinks’ container, which is then received by consumers when they bring the containers back to the shop or collection point. 

Great Danes

Both Lars Krejberg Petersen, chief executive of Dansk Retursystem, the company who operates Denmark’s DRS, and Klaus Rehkopff, chief executive of Danske ØlEntusiaster, the association of Danish beer enthusiasts, shared their insights during the workshop.

In 2020, 91 percent of cans, 94 percent of glass bottles and 96 percent of PET containers were returned in Denmark for processing. Around 1.7 billion bottles and cans were returned in Denmark last year, with 64,000 tonnes of glass, aluminium and plastic recycled.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s collection and recycling rates fall well short of those in Denmark. Most recent data found recycling rates for glass in Ireland decreased from 86 to 78 percent between 2018 and 2019.

In 2019 Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) found five-in-six beaches and waterways were not considered clean enough to meet European standards, with drinks containers including plastic and glass bottles, coffee cups, and aluminium cans accounting for much of this litter.

Essential Inclusion

Speaking during the workshop the experts reached general consensus that including glass bottles is crucial if Ireland’s deposit return scheme is to have the environmental impact intended.

Lars Krejberg Petersen said: “Nobody in Denmark would dream of taking glass out of the scheme. Glass is not a big source of income, but there’s still a huge environmental uplift in including it.

Klaus Rehkopff agreed, adding that by including glass in DRS schemes, consumers are more likely to see the value in returning their bottles to collection points. He said: “I passed a park yesterday, where a lot of young people sat earlier in the day. There was no litter there, no bottles, nothing. That is because glass is in the deposit return system.

If the youngsters do not have the power themselves to take their litter, somebody else will come and collect it, because it’s actually money laying there. So simply to have nice parks, glass bottles should be included.”

All-Inclusive

The calls follow growing support for Ireland’s deposit return scheme to be inclusive of all materials. 

In November last year an open letter signed by 15 leading figures urged the Environment Minister Eamon Ryan to expand the scheme. Signatories included Fianna Fáil Senator Erin McGreehan and Independent Senator David Norris as well as NGOs VOICE Ireland, Friends of the Earth Ireland, and An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland.

In October 2020 a poll from VOICE Ireland found nine-in-ten respondents wanted a deposit return scheme which included all materials.  

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