Jennifer Whitmore TD

The Government must seek an urgent explanation from the operators of the Re-turn scheme as to why thousands of Reverse Vending Machines were not disability-proofed before being brought into use, according to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson on Climate and Biodiversity, said:

“Significant accessibility issues with these machines have been raised by disability representative bodies, including the Irish Wheelchair Association, Vision Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland, since the scheme came into operation in February.

“These are all issues that were flagged well in advance of the introduction of the scheme and before the machines were installed in more than 2,000 outlets around the country.

“Problems include the location of the hole where you place your bottle or can, which is too high for many wheelchair users. This poses a particular difficulty if the item is rejected, meaning the user must reach into the hole to retrieve the can or bottle before trying again.

“For those with a physical disability or visual impairment, this is often not possible.

“In addition, there are no braille or audio instructions on how to operate the machines, or anything on the bottles or cans to help those with visual impairments identify if there is a Re-turn logo.

“It seems to me that there was insufficient engagement with disability groups in advance of the introduction of the Re-turn scheme.

“Any tweaks that would have been needed to disability-proof these machines should have been made before the launch of this initiative, as having to retrofit them now could prove costly.

“It is a pity that disabled people appear to have been an afterthought in the rollout of this otherwise worthy scheme.

“People with disabilities have as much a right as anyone to participate in the circular economy. The issues they have raised with this scheme must be immediately communicated to Re-turn Ireland so that practical solutions can be found.”

April 30, 2024

Back to all Posts