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Warning of Weekend Queues as Ban on Non-Deposit Return Scheme Bottles and Cans Begins

Warning of Weekend Queues as Ban on Non-Deposit Return Scheme Bottles and Cans Begins

The operators of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) are advising shoppers to return their empty bottles and cans midweek to avoid weekend queues, as the number of people using reverse vending machines increases and the list of drinks eligible for the scheme expands.

Starting today, shops are prohibited from selling drinks in non-returnable plastic bottles and cans and could face fines of up to €5,000 for non-compliance. June 1 marks the end of a four-month transition period granted to retailers to sell off old stock.

Under the new regulations, beverages in aluminum cans or PET plastic bottles, ranging from 150ml to three liters, must carry the Re-turn logo and a special barcode. This barcode triggers a deposit payment at the cash register and allows the container to be read by a reverse vending machine, which issues a voucher for the deposit refund. Waste enforcement officers in local authorities are responsible for inspecting compliance.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Management Agency stated that waste enforcement teams have been briefed on the new regulations and guided on their enforcement roles. These teams will determine the timing and frequency of inspections based on a risk-based inspection plan prepared annually, which includes all waste enforcement obligations. However, waste enforcement officers generally do not work on weekends.

Shoppers have reported confusion about which containers are eligible for the scheme, contributing to frustration as they adapt to the new recycling arrangements. Re-turn has emphasized that early figures on the scheme’s operation should not be considered an accurate reflection of its progress due to the transition period.

Despite the presence of non-eligible containers, the number of returned cans and bottles has steadily increased. Latest figures from Re-turn show that 75 million containers were returned in May—more than in February, March, and April combined. On average, around 2.5 million containers were returned each day in May. Over a full year, approximately five million eligible containers are sold daily, with fluctuations throughout the year.

Re-turn’s chief executive, Ciaran Foley, expressed satisfaction with the growing numbers, stating, “We expect to see this continue as we move out of the transition period.”

Re-turn encourages shoppers to report any beverage sold without a Re-turn logo after today by emailing info@re-turn.ie.

To avoid delays caused by queues and the need for staff to empty machines, Re-turn recommends returning containers during quieter times. “The most popular days to return drinks containers are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Re-turn recommends returning your cans and bottles midweek to avoid busy periods,” the organization advised.

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