Ireland should include glass bottles as part of its deposit return scheme, according to Danish experts.
Deposit return schemes, which are in operation in Denmark and California, are where consumers pay a small “deposit” on aluminium cans, as well as glass and plastic bottles.
The deposit is included in the price of the product and the consumer receives this deposit back if they return their bottles or cans to the shop.
Ireland’s deposit return scheme is currently being designed by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, and should be operational by the third of 2022.
The draft design of the scheme includes a variable deposit model, where the deposit is based on the size of the container. However, it does not cover glass bottles.
Speaking at a webinar on Friday, Lars Krejberg Petersen, chief executive of Dansk Retursystem which is the company who operates Denmark’s deposit return scheme, said it is crucial that glass bottles are included in any scheme Ireland designs.
“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 with including it.”
He also said returning bottles and cans should be made as easy as possible for consumers, in order to ensure a high return rate.
“The retail industry plays a big role ... consumers don’t have to go back to the shop where they bought the containers. It needs to be very easy.”
In Denmark, once the consumer returns their bottles and cans, they receive their deposit back within five weeks.
Dansk Retursystem then collects these containers from retailers and restaurants.
After this, they are processed, and the materials are sent back to drinks producers for re-use.
A total of 90 per cent of the bottles collected by the scheme go back into drinking containers, and 10 percent goes into other food packaging.
In Denmark, the scheme is very successful. In 2020, 91 per cent of cans, 94 per cent of glass bottles and 96 per cent of PET containers were returned.
About 1.7 billion bottles and cans were returned in total last year, with 64,000 tonnes of glass, aluminium and plastic recycled.
As a result 178,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide was eliminated.
However, Mr Petersen also warned that deposit return labelling needed to be clear, and that the government and the company in charge of the system should be wary of people creating fake labels in order to defraud the system.
Klaus Rehkopff, chief executive of Danske ØlEntusiaster, the association of Danish beer enthusiasts, said that Denmark experiences few problems with litter as a result of the deposit return scheme.
He said that if people consider bottles litter, they will just throw them anywhere, but with a deposit return scheme, the bottles have value.
“I passed a park yesterday, where a lot of young people had 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.”
Adele O’Connor from Irish Business Against Litter also spoke at the webinar, and she said it is crucial that the company who operates the scheme is a non-profit organisation, to keep the deposits low and to benefit everyone.