Sunday, March 4, 2012

The bottle to act responsibly.

There was a time, back when I were a gorsoon, that you could bring the bottles of some soft drinks back to the shop and receive money for them from the shop-owner.
I must have been quite young when this practice stopped but I do remember it.

For quite some time afterwards all bottles were emblazoned with the words 'No Deposit- No Return' to hammer the point home that the days of "finding a discarded bottle and turning one man's trash into another man's bag-of-sweeties" were truly over.

That old system went the way of the buggy-whip. Glass-recycling hasn't ended mind you, but now we have Bottle-banks where every right-thinking citizen disposes of their surplus glassware and gets to benefit charities, like Rehab So I suppose you could say that people are paid in 'environmental charity-supporting smug points' instead of money.

I think the money was better: 'environmentally-conscious charity-supporting smug points' are only of value to a certain section of the population whereas everybody loves money.

I think there was a shift in thinking somewhere along the line. With the deposit/return system everybody had a reason to recycle and the that reason was self-interest. It required no training in the importance of sustainability to get children to recycle, it wasn't laid on the head of each individual to
" do the right thing": there was a system there to ensure the right thing was done.

It's just another way of operating.

Speaking of other ways of operating; in Finland, they didn't get rid of the "Deposit/Return" system, they refined it.

I cannot explain what it was like, as a regular visitor to stinking Irish Car-park Bottle-banks, I cant explain what it was like to enter a shop, every shop that sold
bottles and cans, and find a clean and beautiful machine that you just popped your bottles and cans into. I cant explain it. I felt like a Caveman who'd been defrosted and woke up in the future.

Watching the machine read the barcode and sort the recycling ( as the digital total of my deposit money rose on the display ) was staggering.

The shop-owners ( who make a living distributing receptacles in glass and aluminium ) had never passed on responsibility to the customer, but instead dealt with recycling as part of their business.

About six months ago, a bright plastic Bottle-bank was put in place at the top of Wolf Tone Street and was promptly burnt down to an ugly black smudge by 'the youth of today' because 'environmentally-conscious charity-supporting smug points' are of no value to them.

Their actions would hardly be described as responsible: but, to my mind, the fault is in the system: were the shops to accept their responsibility for what they sell and adopt the Finnish model then there'd be no ugly plastic Bottle-banks and the 'youth-of-today' would have a solid reason to clean-up after cider-parties.

A reason that has nothing to do with abstract notions like ' saving the planet' and everything to do with self-interest.


  1. Spotted these in Germany too. How right you are. I didn't see one empty or broken bottle anywhere in the city.

    The thing in action: