Ireland's deposit return system (DRS) for drinks containers has gone live today. The deposit scheme is intended to significantly boost recycling rates, tackle litter, and reduce the environmental impact of beverage packaging.
The Irish DRS will cover all beverages excluding dairy products such as milk and yoghurt drinks sold in cans and single-use PET bottles with fill volumes ranging from 0.15 to 3 litres. Consumers will pay a deposit of €0.15 for small containers 0.15 to 0.5 litres in size, and €0.25 for those over 0.5 litres. Glass bottles and composite beverage containers, that is, drinks cartons, are not included in the scheme.
The system is being administered by DRSI CLG, which trades as "Re-turn" and is funded through producer fees for beverages placed on the market. Registration for system participants began in December 2022.
The system administrator selected the Slovakian software company Sensoneo to provide the IT architecture for the DRS. Ireland is one of six European countries in which the company has landed contracts to supply software for a beverage container return scheme.
Around five million drinks are consumed in single-use containers in Ireland each day, according to the Republic's Department of the Environment. Only around 60 per cent of this packaging was collected for recycling, according to Re-turn, which recalled that like all EU member states, Ireland must achieve a collection rate of at least 77 per cent for single-use plastic beverage bottles by 2025 and 90 per cent by 2029.
On launch day, Re-turn expected more than 2,000 return points to be ready to accept containers and refund deposits. Larger retailers and some smaller retailers had installed reverse vending machines (RVMs). However, the decision on return equipment was left up to the business owner. Some 200 smaller retailers will operate the scheme on a manual, over-the-counter basis, according to the Department of Environment. Only packaging bearing the Re-turn system logo is eligible for a refund. Stock not branded with that logo is to be phased out from 1 June.
Ossian Smyth, Ireland's circular economy minister, described the deposit system's introduction as "a once-in-a-generation development for the Irish beverage industry". He said he expected that the Irish public would "really get behind this scheme and make it a great success; we saw this with the introduction of the plastic bag levy and the euro".
Launch date in UK remains unclear
While the introduction of a DRS in the UK has been discussed for several years, plans for a deposit scheme have been delayed several times and last year the British government named 1 October 2025 as "a stretching date" for the start of a system to cover much of the country, including Northern Ireland. Scotland, which had aimed to roll-out its system independently in 2023, was unable to obtain an exception to UK internal market rules and pushed back its go live date. It now also plans to introduce its scheme in October 2025 at the earliest.