The Irish Times view on the new recycling scheme: people’s buy-in must be won

A functioning and relatively frictionless Re-turn system for drinks cans and plastic bottles is a necessary condition for consumer support

It will be months if not years before the success of the Re-turn scheme for drinks cans and plastic bottles can be judged. If research commissioned ahead of this week’s launch is to be believed then it has a fair wind behind it. Some 82 per cent of the public support the scheme and 95 per cent intend to engage with it. The research also indicates that people have a high level of awareness about the impact on future generations of their behaviour and believe recycling can make a real difference.

Capitalising on this goodwill and translating it into action is the challenge facing Re-turn and the drinks companies and retailers who set it up in order to fulfil their obligation under EU directives to reduce the use of plastics.

Their first task is a simple one: just making the system work. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. Issues will undoubtedly arise about the number and placement of recycling machines, the willingness of small retailers to participate and other less foreseeable obstacles. All these problems should be solvable .

A functioning and relatively frictionless recycling system is a necessary condition for public buy-in. But it is not sufficient. Re-turn’s research may suggest that it is pushing at an open door but despite what people might say to opinion pollsters, the evidence is that as a nation we are not particularly good recyclers.


Ireland is well below the European average when it comes to the share of municipal waste that is recycled: 40.8 per cent against 49.6 per cent. The best performer is Germany with 71.1 per cent, according to Eurostat.

The Re-turn scheme can and will make a positive contribution towards recycling. It is worth noting that Germany has the best and most efficient deposit-based system for recycling drink containers in Europe, which claims to collect 98 per cent of containers.

Re-turn requires and deserves the support of all sides from the Government down to consumers. There may be more ambitious environmental policies to be tackled, but moving in the right direction on as many fronts as possible is important.