Ex-minister calls for bottle return scheme to help environment
Former Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has proposed a cash incentive for the return of glass bottles as an environment-saving initiative.
The SDLP Foyle MLA is due to meet with Derry and Strabane Council and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to explore the possibility.
Mr Durkan said that while some people are conscientious about recycling glass bottles, they are still in the minority.
He said: "I am looking for local government to show leadership and to see what can be done in individual council areas.
"Derry City and Strabane District Council have already led the way with some environmental initiatives and I believe they have a great opportunity to do so again.
"Our throw-away culture is completely unsustainable and our planet is bearing the brunt of it. Recent years have witnessed a growing realisation that actions must be taken by governments, businesses and individuals to address the damage being done to our environment.
"We should be building on the success of the innovative carrier bag levy which has dramatically reduced the amount of plastic swimming in our rivers and strewn in our hedgerows.
"I know a lot of people use bottle banks and recycle their glass but sadly they are still in the minority and this scheme would be an incentive for others."
Mr Durkan said the scheme would work for recycling glass bottles, but he hopes that if it does receive backing it could be extended to include other materials.
He added: "The next big offender we need to tackle is single-use drink containers.
"Empty bottles and cans make up a substantial percentage of the litter on our streets and in our countryside.
"As Environment Minister, I explored the possibility of implementing a deposit return scheme in Northern Ireland, having seen their benefits in other countries.
"Unfortunately, my attempts were met with some resistance, politically and commercially.
"However, I believe that, even in the few years since, things have changed. Businesses realise the importance of and indeed the opportunities created by going beyond environmental compliance.
"The British Government has recently carried out a consultation on a deposit return scheme.
"Scotland is moving ahead with theirs and again we in the north run the risk of being left behind - particularly in the absence of a government to drive this forward."