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Bottle deposit scheme on the way for Scotland, but Irish government says it's still too expensive

Despite calls from the Green Party to introduce such a plan, the minister is not budging.

Image: Shutterstock/Ana Prego

THE GREEN PARTY has called on the Irish government to follow in the footsteps of the Scottish who announced last week that it is planning to introduce a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans.

However, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, is not budging on the issue, arguing that such a scheme could cost an estimated €120 million.

Earlier this week, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed plans to introduce the system under which shoppers will be able to cash in on old bottles.

Customers in Scotland will pay a surcharge when purchasing bottles or cans under the programme, which will be refunded when they return them to a shop.

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan said he welcomed the announcement that a bottle deposit scheme is to be rolled out across Scotland, and urged the government to back the Waste Reduction Bill, which passed to second stage in the Dáil last term.

Scotland’s plans 

“If Scotland can introduce a deposit return scheme, there is no reason why we can’t do the same. All we need is the political will from government to see this common sense Bill enacted,” he said.

However, government sources said the minister is “very strong” in his opposition of such a scheme.

The minister previously said he was concerned about the lack of clarity about the potential costs deposit and return scheme to the exchequer”. The statement added:

Deputy Ryan has indicated, when introducing the Bill, that the scheme would cost approximately €276 million to operate in Ireland. A study investigating the possible introduction of a UK-wide deposit and return scheme reported that it could cost in the region of €790 million (£700 million) per annum.

However Ryan said funding for the scheme could be charged to the manufacturers.

Other European countries also offer incentives for people to recycle bottles.

Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden introduced a publically funded national deposit schemes as far back as the 1980s.

Concerns around cost 

Concerns surrounding costs of the scheme have also been made in Scotland, though a recent survey found that the majority of members of the public surveyed are in favour of the new plan.

The Guardian reports that Zero Waste Scotland were asked to assess the impacts and benefits of such a scheme. It received 63 responses on the deposit returns scheme, from companies such as Coca-Cola, as well as major supermarkets and Scottish environment groups.

AG Barr, the maker of Irn Bru, warned that “the cost to the consumer would be in the region of £150 million extra per year” in its submission.

Department officials argue it would also not have a huge impact on recycling or litter rates due to Ireland already being having one of the highest recycling rates for drinks containers in Europe, with 86% of all glass being recovered and recycled.

“We can’t afford it. There is about €500 million fiscal space. Are we going to spend nearly half of it rolling out a scheme like this when our recycling rates are performing well?” said one government source, who added that the Oireachtas Environment Committee will debate the merits of the Waste Reduction Bill in the next Dáil session where interested parties and groups can make submissions.

Fianna Fáil’s Environment spokesperson Timmy Dooley has submitted a similar Bill to bring about a bottle recycling programme, however, as it is legislation that would require the government to spend money, it has been rejected.

It’s understood the party is looking at other ways of ensuring the plan is rolled out in Ireland.

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