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Könnten Wir Bitte Ihre Leere Plastikflaschen Und Dosen Haben?

Münster is an independent city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The city is regarded as the cultural centre of the Westphalia Region and renowned as the bicycle capital of Germany. Recently a friend of mine visited that lovely city and returned with the following true story.

Leading a group of some 20 other persons in Münster; my friend became aware that they were being followed, from a distance, by two elderly and possibly homeless persons. My friends group paused for a while at a nearby recognised picnic site, to consume some snacks and drinks, before being approached by these gentlemen, who inquired formally in German, “Könnten wir bitte ihre leere Plastikflaschen und Dosen haben?”  One of the company who spoke the German language translated; “Please can we have your empty plastic bottles and cans”?

My friend explained that in Münster as indeed in Germany, a deposit refund system was in place, to repel the growing plastic waste crisis. Every drink can and plastic bottle collected, when returned to vendors, is rewarded by a payment of 15 cents each, which had been previously charged when the product was initially purchased. These two men would redeem €3.00, if 20 plastic or metal drink containers were returned to vendors.

The returned containers are then reused or recycled. This system of recycling has proven to be extremely effective in the recovering of up to 98% of all such containers.

Drink containers are the convenience packaging for products used for outdoor recreation.

Here in Ireland our metal cans and plastic drink containers are to be found dumped in every nook and cranny. “Tidy Towns” judges, together with the “Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL)”, regularly highlight the issue within towns and villages, but rural country areas remain ignored with same items dropped to roll around on our streets; to be thrown into our gardens and unto our road sides by passers-by and motorists; while also being dumped into our rivers and onto the 7,000km of our golden beaches, to become the flotsam and jetsam of “God knows where,” depending on the currents and Tides.

The “Repak Model” of recycling is seen as being adequate by a short sighted Irish Department of the Environment. However, while it may be profitable for Repak; do take a look around our streets and you will see Ireland operates a “one use and then litter” model, with immediate change now fundamentally crucial. It would appear that our appointed legislators are possibly under pressure, from waste collection business operators, latter who only manage to recycle about 39% of our cans and plastic bottles (given to them for free), leaving 61% (43,000 tonnes) to decorate our green landscape.

But imagine the difference it would make to our unspoiled coastal regions; our rural countryside, our villages, towns and cities, if a deposit refund system were to be put in place, in a state that is growing more and more dependent on regular foreign Tourism.

The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have operated successful ‘deposit refund systems’ for years. The UK have just announced they are about to introduce a similar deposit refund scheme, while Ireland continues to drown in its own litter, dependent on individuals to come out, voluntarily, to pick up and clean up after those who dump their unwanted garbage.

God be with the late 50’s, when my friends and I would rush down to the village with our empty ‘Taylor Keith’ cochineal reddened, fizzy, lemonade bottles and with the refund, buy a few Peggy’s Legs or a few strawberry flavoured Bubble Gum Balls, [latter banned in my house because same were seen to be ‘dirty’ and ‘unmannerly’, according to my grandmother, especially “in front of other respectable visiting adults.”].

Here in Ireland we will probably have to wait until the EU make ‘deposit refund systems’ compulsory, and the sooner the better. Understandably reverse vending machines operating a deposit-and-return drinks container regime, is not as popular with our elected County Councillors, as are Parking Metres in our town centres.

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