We’ve done it again guys! The streak has been extended… the streak of failing to hit our EU recycling targets for the 5th year in a row!

In August, the Environmental Protection Authority released the nearly identical annual proclamation that Ireland has missed its plastic recycling targets again. Clearly, the EPA’s press release is the only thing actually being recycled in the Emerald Isle!

The European Union has put in place a minimum recycling standard for 50% of plastic waste to be recycled, and we are not even close. Just 28% of Irish plastic waste is recycled – compared to 84% of glass waste and 73% of paper waste. This reality and upcoming 2025 deadlines have led to the government regressing to their college years and copying their classmates’ homework.

assorted plastic bottles
Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

In a nearly identical scheme to Germany, the Irish government enacted a deposit return scheme on most drink bottles and cans. Now, this idea certainly isn’t new, but much like those horrible Caramilk bars, it’s new to us!

In Germany, the ‘Pfand’ (deposit) was introduced nearly 21 years ago, in 2003 by a coalition government of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. In English that’s the Social Democrats and the Green Party, but it sounds much cooler in German.

It wouldn’t be an unusual site in Germany to see recyclable bottles left beside public bins. In fact, it’s considered the right thing to do – allowing someone else to collect those precious Pfand Euros! Contrastingly, leaving plastic bottles beside the bin in Ireland is considered to mean you are lazy, or insane! Well, that’s all about to change!

From February 1st this year, Irish shops will be charging a deposit every time you purchase a beverage. Armed with a Re-Turn logo, these offending bottles will set you back a deposit of 15c for bottles from 150ml to 500ml (inclusive) or a deposit of 25c for drinks from 500ml to 3 litres (inclusive). This deposit will be on any ‘beverage container’ from PET plastic bottles to aluminium cans.

So what does that mean for you, dear reader?

Your Coke can will cost you an extra 15 cent, which, if you are bothered, you can instantly make back by feeding the can into an RVM machine (right). These Reverse Vending Machines as the Irish government has decided to call them, will give you a nice receipt which you can hand to participating retailers for a full refund. I can almost hear your brain working…

There could be money to be made here! Just 22 Ballygowan water bottles could purchase you a cappuccino in BlueBird! Just 15 more of those precious bottles and you’ve got a chicken fillet roll in the village Centra!

Why not collect 13,016 discarded 2-litre bottles and pay your college tuition in water bottle deposits! Dream even bigger, apparently the average cost of a college student in Dublin for a year is €13,305 – that’s merely 53,220 2-litre bottles… the sky’s the limit!

In countries where this deposit system is in place, it’s not uncommon to see people collecting those bottles stacked beside public bins.

One article in the German newspaper, Der Tagesspiegel, tells the story of an Union Berlin supporter Klaus-Peter Ihle who collects empty bottles in the hopes of deposits on people’s discarded recyclables some day purchasing a house for the homeless.

He even tells of a territorial nature which backs the collection of the bottles and that collecting bottles at night is better as “There are fewer people out there, the competition isn’t that great.”

Naturally, with the promise of great profit there are those whose morals can be turned by the promise of cash! In 2022, two men undertook a daring raid to compete with the antics of Ocean’s 11.

Labelled the ‘Pfand raiders’ by local media, the 31 and 41 year-old-men stole a parked car as they noticed a large collection of recyclable plastic bottles inside the car.

They admitted that their plan was to drive to a location where they could deposit the plastic bottles and then abandon the vehicle. Unfortunately, the police, alerted by their poor driving, apprehended the daring duo after a prolonged police chase.

While it’s unlikely the deposit system will lead to any police chases in Belfield, The College Tribune will be ready to report on it all!

Hugh Dooley – Co-Editor