Deposit return scheme reduces can and bottle litter

Significant decrease in litter in towns and cities except for Dublin city which remains a ‘blot on the landscape’, report shows

Discarded cans have reduced by almost 30 per cent since the introduction of the 'Re-turn' scheme. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Can and plastic bottle litter has reduced significantly across towns and cities since the introduction of the deposit return scheme in February, according to research from Irish Business Against Litter (Ibal).

However, Dublin city centre had seen a fall in cleanliness and was a “blot on the landscape,” the anti-litter business group said.

The first national litter survey, conducted by An Taisce for Ibal, since the introduction of the “Re-turn” scheme, found discarded cans have reduced by almost 30 per cent and plastic bottle waste was less prevalent than in any previous survey.

The scheme operates by customers paying a returnable deposit on bottles and cans and reclaiming a credit when they place the bottle or can in a reverse-vending machine.


While both waste streams had seen declines, plastic bottles remained the third most prevalent form of litter on our streets, Ibal spokesman Conor Horgan said.

“It’s early days and we’re still seeing too many plastic bottles on our streets, but we can expect further improvement as people become accustomed to the deposit return scheme and the legacy non-returnable items are flushed out of the system. Ultimately, we should see can and plastic bottle litter disappear entirely,”

The success of the scheme should spur the implementation of a coffee cup levy, he said.

“These initial results indicate that if there’s a monetary incentive to do the right thing, people will respond. The same logic applies to a coffee cup levy. Tackling specific litter types with tailored measures is the most effective way of ridding our streets of litter.”

Naas was top of Ibal’s rankings of 40 towns and cities, but Dublin city centre had deteriorated.

“Unfortunately, Dublin city centre is again something of a blot on the landscape. As the peak tourist season beckons, we cannot call Ireland clean if our capital is littered,” Mr Horgan said. “While most areas are going in a positive direction, things are in reverse in Dublin. Littered streets simply do not square with the high prices our visitors face in the capital, and threaten our long-term tourism prospects.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times