Customers to get cash on return of plastic bottles and cans

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee has been told of plans for the introduction of reverse vending machines in Northern Ireland next year.

Reverse vending machines in shops would return a cash deposit to customers when plastic drinks bottles and cans are deposited.

A report to the council’s Planning Committee says: “Whilst the council are generally in agreement with proposed changes to permitted development rights for reverse vending machines, it is suggested that conditions to avail of permitted development should include the need to ensure that reverse vending machines do not impact on the movement, parking and servicing arrangements within a site.”

Speaking at the Planning Committee meeting on Thursday, Ballymena DUP Alderman Audrey Wales MBE said she had seen these machines in operation in Germany.

Discarded plastic bottles (stock image).

“It is just a matter of putting a can or plastic bottle into it and it works out a voucher to take to the cash register. There is no rubbish lying around on the streets.”

Almost 1,500 fixed penalty notices were issued for littering in Mid and East Antrim during the first six months of 2022.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful’s Cleaner Neighbourhoods Report 2012/22 says that cleaning up Mid and East Antrim cost each ratepayer almost £40.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has outlined plans to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for single-use drinks containers alongside England and Wales in 2024.

The scheme aims to encourage increased drinks container recycling. It has been proposed there should be no limit to the number of reverse vending machines that can be installed at a shop.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful says that a Deposit Return Scheme would “incentivise people to not just throw away their items as they would have a monetary value attached to them”.

“Deposit Return Schemes would also greatly reduce the number of plastic items reaching our seas.”

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Former Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd said at the launch of a public consultation in October: “The proposed changes are aimed at protecting the environment by encouraging the use of low carbon heat technologies and promoting the recycling of drinks containers, whilst ensuring the provision of such infrastructure is sited and designed to keep environmental impacts to a minimum.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter