ENVIRONMENT: Lidl to offer vouchers in exchange for returned plastic bottles and cans

Machines to be trialled in Irish store as supermarket prepares for national deposit return scheme

By Bill Heaney

Lidl Ireland is to install “reverse vending machines” which will allow customers to exchange plastic bottles and aluminium cans for vouchers at all of its stores by 2023.

And, if it is successful, the scheme could soon be operating in all Lidl stores, including those in West Dunbartonshire.

The Irish Government is due in the coming weeks to announce details of a national deposit return scheme (DRS) which is to be introduced next year in an effort to increase recycling rates and reduce littering.

The machines, initially being provided at Lidl’s outlet in Glenageary, Co Dublin, will enable customers to deposit used plastic PET drinks bottles and aluminium cans.

For every unit deposited, a customer will receive a 10-cent voucher up to a maximum limit of €2 that will be redeemable in store. Each machine can collect and process up to 17,000 units a week, the company said.

Lidl aims to roll out the machines across its 170 Irish stores over the next two years and to redirect 1,500 tonnes of plastic annually that will be used to manufacture new products.

LIDL’s supermarket on Castle Street, Dumbarton.

JP Scally, chief executive of Lidl Ireland and Northern Ireland, said the company was committed to sustainability and that he hoped the initiative would “drive real change where consumer habits are concerned”.

Adapt behaviour

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said the support of the Irish public, and a willingness to adapt behaviours, “will be essential if we are to successfully transition to a circular economy in the coming years”.

The Lidl move would “enable the public to interact with a live DRS system, while providing valuable feedback that will help in the roll out of a nationwide Government-led scheme next year,” he said.

Mr Ryan said he would sign the regulations for the national scheme in the coming weeks and then issue timelines. This will allow him to designate a scheme operator and oblige retailers and producers to prepare for the DRS.

“A successful DRS will not only help us to reach ambitious recycling targets and to reduce litter but will foster the behavioural changes we will need to make a transition to a circular economy.”

Lidl, which has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2025, said it had made significant progress against its own target of an overall plastic reduction of 20 per cent across own-brand packaging by next year.

It has substituted single use plastic items such as drinking straws, disposable cups, glasses and plates with non-plastic alternatives.

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