The Government's bottle deposit scheme has been criticised for excluding glass containers.
The criticism comes from two senators, both within and outside the government. Fianna Fáil Senator Erin McGreehan and Sinn Féin’s Paul Gavan have urged Environment Minister Eamon Ryan to learn from what they call best practice examples of existing schemes in Scandinavia.
Ireland is set to introduce a deposit return scheme for aluminium cans and plastic bottles after regulations were signed in November. However, glass bottles are set to be excluded from the scheme.
Mr Gavan and Ms McGreehan believe consumers should pay a smaller deposit like €0.10 on containers under a litre. Drinks of more than a litre should be subject to a proportionally higher deposit, like €0.20, the senators say. They believe a variable deposit fee will incentivise consumers to avoid purchasing the two-litre plastic bottles "that have plagued Ireland’s beaches for decades".
"The most successful deposit return schemes are implemented in Scandinavian countries, who boast redemption and recycling rates upwards of 92%," a joint statement from the pair reads.
Countries such as Norway, Finland, and Denmark have adopted a deposit variable by container size, and its value reflects the true sorting and recycling costs of each material.
The senators also criticised the exclusion of glass from Ireland’s deposit return scheme, saying that the recycling rates of these containers has dropped to around 78%.
However, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment said that the scheme's aim was to cut down on single-use plastic. However, the spokesperson added that the minister could expand the scheme if needed.
"The introduction of a DRS scheme will assist in reducing single-use plastics, help Ireland meet EU targets and promote a wider circular economy.
This DRS will be focused on plastic bottles and aluminium cans, to ensure that more of these are captured for recycling and to avoid these being discarded as litter. Specifically, the intent of this DRS here in Ireland, at this time, is primarily to increase the capture rate of single-use Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) and aluminium beverage containers.
"The next step is the appointment, by the minister, of an approved body to operate the scheme. Further engagement is also required with stakeholders, to determine the rate of the deposit to be paid on in-scope bottles and cans. The scheme is expected to become operational across the country in Quarter 3 of this year (2022).
"Because recycling rates for glass are already comparatively high, it has not been included at this point in this scheme. However, the regulations provide the flexibility for the future expansion of the scheme to other materials, including glass, if required."