As a South Australian, I’ve been lucky enough to take plastic bottle refund schemes for granted most of my life. I remember the huge feed bags in the garage getting fuller and fuller until we’d stuff them into back of the car and drive them to the recycling depot. I’d sit in the car and listen to the clanging, popping and clattering of tin cans, milk cartons and soft drink containers being sorted into their respective crates, and then Dad would reappear with a nice big handful of coins! Magic!
I also remember road tripping through other Australian states that weren’t so lucky and gaping at the debris covering the roadsides, testament to thousands of thirsty travellers chucking their empties out the window. If it was that bad in the middle of nowhere, I thought, it must be a hundred times worse in the city! Lobbying by the soft drink industry was the major reason these other states did not offer a refund. Not only was the government bribed, but on occasion it was threatened by companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, who were fiercely protective of their profit margins.
Now, most of Australia has a bottle deposit scheme, and it looks like Ireland could soon have one, too. After Minister Denis Naughten’s attempt to alter the Waste Reduction Bill to indefinitely postpone a national deposit-and-return scheme was voted down, such a scheme is set to become reality if the bill is passed.
The Waste Reduction Bill is not just about plastic bottles, though. It also proposes a ban on single-use non-compostable cups and tableware by 2020. The argument for these measures becomes clear when you consider that Ireland generates 3 billion single-use plastic bottles, over 582 million aluminum cans and 718 million glass bottles every year. And with recycling rates of up to 90% in countries with similar deposit-and-return schemes, it’s a proven method of tackling single-use waste. Here’s what you can do to help curb Ireland’s waste crisis:
- Write to your TD expressing your concerns and asking them to support the Waste Reduction Bill!
- Sick of excess packaging? Send it back to the store, or politely leave it at the counter.
- Try to avoid excess packaging in the first place, and recycle what you can.
- Make sure your recyclables are sorted, clean and dry so that they can be properly recycled.
- Get informed about your local waste services so you know how to make the most of them.
- Dissatisfied with your local waste services? Speak up about it! Get active within your community.
- Friends of the Earth Ireland’s Sick of Plastic campaign is making waves – join in!
Until next time, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed!