Record-Breaking Return Day: Irish Consumers Bring Back Three Million Plastic Bottles and Cans in One Day

  • Average Daily Returns Surpass 2.37 million in May as return rates continue to increase


  • Over 100 million Drinks Containers Returned as Scheme Reaches Major Milestone


  • Return numbers are steadily rising each week with people now returning millions of bottles and cans every day – Ciaran Foley, CEO



Ireland’s Deposit Return Scheme continues to achieve new record recycling figures with over 3 million drinks containers returned on Sunday May 12, demonstrating continued public support for the scheme. This record-breaking day pushed the total number of drinks containers collected past the 100 million mark since the Scheme’s launch on February 1.


Speaking on the growth to date, CEO of Re-turn, Ciaran Foley, said:

“Saturday, May 11, marked 100 days of the operation of the Deposit Return Scheme in Ireland.  We are seeing really good support from Irish consumers with continued growth in numbers participating and returning drinks containers each week. The inaugural months of a Deposit Return Scheme is all about gradual improvement, and that’s exactly what we’re achieving. Return numbers are steadily rising each week with people now returning millions of bottles and cans every day.”


Average Daily Return Rates Increasing


Since the beginning of May, the average daily return rate has surged to over 2.37 million plastic bottles and cans, and that number continues to grow. This marks a dramatic increase from the Scheme’s early days, which saw 2 million drinks containers returned in the entire month of February.


The past weekend alone, Friday May 10 to Sunday May 12, demonstrated remarkable consumer participation, with over 8.1 million drinks containers returned. The week of May 5-11th recorded the highest level of participation to date with 16.7 million returns, not including the 3 million on Sunday May 12.


This upward trend not only underscores the public’s robust dedication to recycling but also highlights the continued growth and success of the scheme.


With over 2,300 Reverse Vending Machines now live across the country, Irish consumers have returned over 30 million plastic bottles and cans in May to date, illustrating the Scheme’s widespread acceptance and effectiveness.


Progress made since launch


Total Drinks Containers returned in Months:

  • 2m containers February
  • 20m containers in March
  • 50m containers in April
  • 30.9m containers in May to date


Daily Average of Drinks Containers returned in Months:

  • 69,000 containers a day in February
  • 645,000 containers a day in March
  • 1.66 million containers a day in April
  • 2.37 million containers a day in May.



Further Consumer Guidance


Return rates


The Irish Scheme began on 1 February 2024. Retailers are still phasing out non-logo and non-deposit drinks containers on shelves until the end of the transition period, 31 May 2024. Therefore, Ireland will not have a full year of the scheme in action until 1 June 2025 to assess more accurate return metrics.


The assumption of an equal number of containers sold daily throughout the year, 5 million per day, doesn’t align with the actual sales pattern of drink containers. Peak periods, such as Christmas and the summer months, significantly impact sales. Additionally, this method fails to consider the volume of non-deposit stock sold by retailers during the transition period until 31 May 31.




I already recycle through my recycling bin, why is a Deposit Return Scheme being brought in?


While all consumers should use their recycling bins for mixed dry recyclables, we would ask that consumers return their plastic bottles and cans to participating shops and supermarkets to redeem their deposit.


The separate collection of these plastic bottles and cans guarantees a high quality recyclate material is returned and recycled and avoids cross contamination that often occurs in domestic recycling bins. The introduction of Deposit Return is a proven method of increasing recycling rates, with great success in a number of other European countries.


By returning all in-scope drinks containers to one place, deposit return points, we can increase our recyclate quality to 98% from the current 80%. It’s important to note that this 80% represents only what actually makes it to the domestic recycling bin. A deposit return scheme results in higher volumes of bottle and can recycling. This separation not only allows for the continuous recycling of aluminium but also enables plastic bottles to be recycled up to seven times.


Having a sufficient quantity and quality of the same product collected in one place will increase the economic viability of building a recycling centre on the island of Ireland. As it stands, we do not collect the volume needed and our recyclate is moved overseas or incinerated. As the Scheme continues to grow, this recycling centre would be instrumental in establishing a circular economy solution for drinks containers in Ireland.


This is a key goal of the Deposit Return Scheme.


My drinks container did not have a Re-turn logo on it, but I was still charged a deposit. Why?


Should consumers be charged a deposit on a drinks container, please be assured that you will get your deposit back when you return it empty and undamaged to Reverse Vending Machine Deposit Return Points nationwide.


Starting February 1, 2024, retailers have a 4-month transition period during which they can sell both new drinks containers with the Re-turn logo and older drinks containers that do not feature this logo. During this time, drinks containers can incur a deposit in two ways:

  • By having the Re-turn logo with a registered barcode
  • By having a barcode that is registered as part of the Scheme without the Re-turn logo.


During the transition period, there will be old drink containers without a logo and with barcode not registered with the Scheme; these drinks containers will not incur a deposit charge.


From June 1, all drinks containers included in the Scheme will feature the Re-turn logo and barcode. If a consumer is in any doubt about whether their container is eligible for a refund on a deposit, they can visit to verify.



What if I purchase a drinks container in a restaurant, cafe or canteen?


The hospitality sector is split between on-site consumption and off-site consumption. Businesses that predominantly cater for on-site consumption do not have to charge a deposit for in-scope products. The rationale for this is that the empty containers remain on the premises and are collected on-site. It is up to each establishment to determine whether or not to charge the deposit. If a deposit is charged, the consumer can take their container off-site. If the deposit is not charged, then the business is responsible for collecting the containers and taking them to a Return Point Operator to reclaim their deposit.


Is there maximum number of containers that can be returned at one time?

No, there is no maximum number of drinks bottles or cans that you can return in one visit.


Why is Ireland launching a Deposit Return Scheme? 


The Deposit Return Scheme is a practical circular economy initiative that aims to create a closed-loop recycling system guaranteeing the material is returned and recycled into new drinks containers.


The EU has set Ireland a target to separate and collect 77% of plastic beverage bottles and aluminium cans by 2025. This target will rise to 90% in 2029. We currently recycle approximately 55% of drinks containers and Deposit Return is a proven method of increasing recycling rates, with great success in several other European countries.


Re-turn has created an FAQ page on the website for any questions which consumers, retailers and producers may have, and they are strongly encouraged to reach out to if they have any further queries.

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