Minister of State Ossian Smyth has confirmed that the deposit-and-return scheme for plastic bottles and aluminium cans will "go live" nationwide from 1 February next year.

Speaking at the Environmental Protection Agency's annual circular economy conference in Dublin, the Minister of State for Communications and the Circular Economy said the scheme would be a huge milestone for the circular economy in Ireland.

He told the conference that every supermarket in Ireland will have a physical machine into which people will put empty bottles and cans to get money back.

He said it is not an easy project to implement and that it had failed in other jurisdictions where attempts had been made to implement similar schemes over longer periods of time.

The minister said that he has constantly tried to limit the scope of the scheme, and this is why he picked just aluminium and PET plastic for the initial stages.

However, he said that the scope of the scheme could be increased and enhanced to include other products in later versions.

The aim is to try to recover the vast majority of nearly two billion cans and bottles used and just thrown away in Ireland every year - a number the minister described as shocking.

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He said one of the great benefits of the scheme is that Ireland will then have a huge supply of clean and well-sorted materials which will spur businesses to do more recycling in this country.

He described how a lot of the raw materials that are currently collected through the segregation of waste are simply shipped out of the country.

This is why Ireland does not have a well-developed material reprocessing and recycling sector, he explained.

Minister Smyth said he believes better segregation of commercial waste added to the deposit-and-return scheme will spur innovation in recycling.

This will help to greatly improve Ireland's recycling statistics for plastics, aluminium and containers, according to the minister.

He said there has been very broad popular support for the deposit-and-return scheme as well as "buy-in" from businesses, retailers and the non-profit sector and insisted that he is "very confident" the scheme will launch on February 1 of next year.

No start date for latte levy

However, Minister Smyth could not be as confident when it comes to the precise start date for the introduction of the so-called latte levy that has been in legislation since the summer of 2022.

The latte levy is a 20-cent tax that the government proposes to impose on each disposable single-use coffee cup for takeaway hot drinks sold in cafes, shops and service stations all over the country.

The minister said Ireland is using hundreds of millions of disposable coffee cups per year and that he will shortly be implementing the legislation passed by the Dáil and signed into law by the President in July last year.

On that occasion his department had entered a three-month public consultation, after the legislation was signed, in the expectation that the latte levy would be introduced before the end of 2022.

Peter Nugent, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Environment, Climate, and Communications, explained the delay in implementation is due to complications that have arisen over how the latte levy is to be collected.

Mr Nugent said a solution to the problem may require legislative change but that his department is still optimistic the latte levy will be introduced in the first half of next year.

However, that would still be at least 18 months after it was initially expected.

Mr Nugent said the Government may need to alter the design of the latte levy system to change the point at which the 20-cent tax on each disposable cup is collected.

He said that the system of collection needs to be done in a manner that is "future-proof" because it will impact on the way the Government goes about implementing other levies that are now under consideration, including a levy on single-use cold cups and certain other packaging material.