New Deposit Return Scheme goes live in Ireland from 1 February 2024 | Fieldfisher
Skip to main content

New Deposit Return Scheme goes live in Ireland from 1 February 2024



From 1 February 2024, the Deposit Return Scheme (the "Scheme") will go live across Ireland. It will be known as the 'Re-Turn Scheme'.

It is estimated that 5 million single-use drinks bottles and cans are consumed every day in Ireland. Ireland's current recycling rate for 'on-the-go' cans or plastic bottles is only 23%, far shy of our target of 90% that we must achieve by 2029[1]. One of the primary aims of the Scheme is to achieve our obligations under the Single Use Plastics Directive and contribute to the circular economy initiative which aims to reduce waste and encourage re-use of products.

We examine below the main aspects of the Scheme and the specific obligations imposed on Consumers, Producers and Retailers of single-use containers under the Separate Collection (Deposit Return Scheme) Regulations 2021, which are the Regulations underpinning the operation of the Scheme.

Summary of the Scheme:

  • The Scheme applies to the following products ("in-scope products"):
    1. Plastic bottles manufactured from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) with a capacity of up to 3 litres; and
    2. Aluminium or steel drinks containers with a capacity of up to 3 litres.
    3. It is important to note that glass, tetra pack and dairy product containers are excluded from the Scheme.
  • A "producer" is defined as any person, irrespective of the selling technique used, who is first to place in-scope products on the market in the State.
  • A "retailer" is defined as any person who, for the purpose of trade or otherwise in the course of business, sells or otherwise supplies in-scope products to a final consumer.
  • In-scope products will carry a logo which indicates that it is part of the scheme and carries a refundable deposit.
  • Consumers will pay a deposit on all beverages purchased in an in-scope bottle, the deposit is 15c for bottles sized between 150ml and 500ml and 25c for those sized above 500ml.
  • Participating retailers will be required to either have Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) in-store or accept returned products over the counter by which consumers will receive their refunded deposit.
  • Consumers will get a deposit refund in the form of either cash or a voucher to be redeemed in store.

Requirements for Producers:

A ‘producer fee’ must be paid to Re-Turn, the Scheme operator established by beverage producers and retailers, which is intended to cover:

  1. the costs of collecting and recycling in-scope products;
  2. the costs of data gathering and reporting in relation to the Scheme;
  3. the cost of business and consumer awareness raising measures in relation to the Scheme; and
  4. Re-turn’s administration costs.


Re-Turn has published a Technical Specification and Labelling Manual which describes the requirements for in-scope products and how they must be labelled to comply with the Scheme's requirements.

Requirements for Retailers:

Retailers are required to pay a deposit fee to producers when they purchase in-scope products. Retailers can accept in-scope products returned over the counter or via RVMs. Retailers are therefore not obliged to invest in RVMs which some retailers may consider to be a significant investment.

There are a number of exemptions which retailers can avail of to opt out of the obligation to take back bottles and cans under the Scheme, as follows:

  1. Where products are purchased and consumed on the retailer's premises.
  2. Retailers with a footprint/layout of 250 square metres or under of retailer store space.
  3. ‘Food to go’ retailers, for example small newsagents, coffee shops, juice bars or delis.
  4. Retailers in the hospitality sector (e.g. pubs, bars, hotels, restaurants and cafes).
  5. Online retailers.

Aside from (a) above, retailers must apply to Re-Turn to be granted an exemption from the Scheme.

Requirements for Consumers:

Consumers must pay to the retailer either a 15c or 25c fee on all in-scope products at the point of purchase. In order to have this deposit returned to them, they must retain the bottles or cans and return them to a participating retailer, either via an RVM or over the counter. However, the returned bottles and cans must be empty and must be undamaged so that the barcode can be read in order for the deposit to be returned. Re-Turn have highlighted to consumers that cans cannot be crushed as it will not be possible for the barcode to be read in that instance.


The introduction of the Scheme is a major change to the way in which cans and bottles are recycled in Ireland and aims to increase recycling rates for these types of containers. Similar schemes are already in place in other European countries such as Germany, Norway and Sweden. Plastic bottle/can collection rates are significantly higher in these countries than the current rate in Ireland of approximately 62%. Similar schemes are due to be implemented in a host of other European countries in the near future.

The introduction of the Scheme will involve a significant change for both consumers and producers//retailers and it is hoped will significantly increase recycling rates for bottles and cans in Ireland, in addition to having ancillary benefits such as decreased litter.

Written by Zoe Richardson, Rory Ferguson, and Evan O'Brien. 

Fieldfisher Ireland's Planning and Environmental Team are available to advise on any aspects of the operation of or obligations under the Deposit Return Scheme. Feel free to reach out for more information.