SDLP MLA and former Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has written to both the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and Irish Government Minister Ossian Smyth urging cross-border cooperation on the incoming Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers.
The call follows recent confirmation from DAERA that the environment-saving UK wide initiative is set to be launched in Northern Ireland in 2025.
Mr Durkan has been a strong proponent for the scheme, calling for its introduction in February 2020. He said cross-border working is integral to ensure the initiative reaches its full potential.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“Stormont committed to the North’s participation in an UK-wide Deposit Return Scheme in February 2020 following my calls for its introduction. Since then I have repeatedly sought clarity on its implementation and while I welcome news that the scheme is on track for 2025, I would’ve liked to have seen it delivered much sooner.
“In the interim lessons should be learnt from the roll-out of similar initiatives in EU member states, in particular, the German model which has achieved a 98% return rate. Our throw-away culture is completely unsustainable, action must be taken by governments, businesses and individuals to address the damage being done to our environment. Building on the success of the innovative carrier bag levy, which has dramatically reduced the amount of plastic in our environment, a deposit return scheme to tackle single-use drink containers represents a tangible and achievable initiative. The incentivised scheme will see people receive money back when they return the empty container to any return point throughout the region and in the process improve recycling rates as well as tackling litter.
“Given the geographical makeup of the North, the Deposit Return Scheme must be progressed on an all-island basis to prevent potential exploitation of the initiative by fraudsters, something which has been witnessed in other EU border countries. More importantly this merger presents an opportunity for economies of scale to be achieved with both jurisdictions working together, but DAERA’s previous minister, Edwin Poots refused to entertain this prudent proposal. I’ve written to DAERA and the Irish government urging cooperation and a cross-border approach to guarantee the success of this environmentally transformative scheme.
“We need to be more ambitious in our rethink on waste, the Deposit Return Scheme represents a springboard on that wider conversation, but efforts need to be made now to create an efficient model which benefits both people and the environment.”