Feature: VOICE Ireland and Initiatives for a Circular Economy

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VOICE Ireland and Initiatives for a Circular Economy

VOICE Ireland is a member-based Irish environmental charity that empowers individuals and local communities to take positive action to conserve our natural resources. VOICE advocates for the government and the corporate sector to adopt environmentally responsible behaviours, and for the development of strong national policies on waste and water issues.

This charity is part of a number of different projects and movements that are pushing for positive changes in Ireland that will help us move towards a circular economy. Leave No Trace Ireland is supporting VOICE Ireland in their campaigns, calling on people to plan ahead and reduce waste by using reusable cups/bottles, be aware of the refill app, and raise awareness of the Deposit Return Scheme. 

Find out more below and get inspired!

The Conscious Cup Campaign

The Conscious Cup Campaign is a non profit environmental initiative with the objective to increase awareness about why “Reuse” is so important, and how reducing our waste protects our finite resources, and in turn our planet.

The campaign encourage cafes to reward conscious consumers for carrying their own cup through incentives, and promotes these locations through their map of Conscious Cafes.

The Refill App

The Refill App connects users to places to eat, drink and shop with less waste. Through the app, you can find where you can refill your water bottle for free, with more than 274,000 Refill Stations offering water Refills globally! 

Refill is an award-winning campaign from City to Sea to help people live with less plastic. Anyone can download the free app to tap into a global network of places to reduce, reuse and refill. From a coffee on your commute to drinking water on the go, or even shopping with less plastic – Refill puts the power to go packaging free at your fingertips.

By providing a framework and platform for communities, businesses and consumers to take action Refill are supporting the transition towards reuse systems and tackling the global issue of plastic pollution by reducing waste.

Return For Change & The Deposit Return Scheme

A Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is a collection system for used recyclable containers. The aim of this scheme is to incentivise the public to return as much as possible of specific recyclable materials, by charging a small “deposit” on the specific items at sale of purchase.

In Europe so far, 10 countries have implemented deposit return schemes: Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. All of these schemes have achieved significant results – the most successful in Europe in Norway, with an amazing 97% recycling rate for plastic bottles (running since 1996), and while technically Estonia is the “least successful” country in Europe, it is still at an impressive 82.7% total return rate – including cans, PET and glass.

Germany has very high results, even with it having the highest population and a broad list of materials now included in their version of the scheme, targeting: glass; plastic (mostly PET); and metal (aluminium); with 98.4% total return rate. The system was implemented by the ministry of environment in 2003 with a €0.25 fee per item, whether it is glass, metal or plastic. (Learn more about our European counterparts here.)

This deposit/fee is reclaimable when the empty packaging is returned to a shop or vendor that processes these materials. 

In Ireland, the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications signed the Separate Collections (Deposit Return Scheme) Regulations 2021 last November, with the intentions for this scheme to launch by the end of 2022. In Ireland, it is being proposed that the DRS system would be used to incentivise consumers to return their empty beverage containers for recycling or reuse. The DRS being introduced in Ireland is focused on plastic bottles and aluminium cans, to ensure that more of these are captured for recycling and to avoid these being discarded as litter. (Read the official government press release here.

VOICE Ireland launched the ‘Return  for Change’ campaign earlier this year urging the introduction of a strong  Deposit Refund Scheme (DRS). This  would  see  a deposit  placed on  certain containers (PET plastic bottles and aluminium cans, initially) at point of sale, which the  customers  would redeem when the  empty  container is returned to the retailer to be recycled. Many retailers will be using a ‘Reverse Vending Machine’, which customers can use themselves by putting in the bottles and cans into the machine to redeeming their deposit.

The introduction of a DRS scheme will assist in reducing single use plastics, help Ireland meet EU targets and promote a wider circular economy. Anything that can help us be more mindful of our resources as we shift to a more circular economy is a positive!



For more information on VOICE Ireland and Return for Change: colin@voiceireland.org
For more information on Leave No Trace, contact: grace@leavenotraceireland.org

recycling, bottles, plastic