Re-Turn Under Fire

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Re-turn, the company behind Ireland’s deposit return scheme, is facing increasing scrutiny for its lack of transparency regarding executive salaries. Funded by consumer deposits on recyclable bottles and cans, the company’s refusal to disclose salary details has sparked concerns among lawmakers and the public alike. Re-Turn Under Fire

Deposit Return Scheme Ireland Limited, which operates under the trade name Re-turn, was appointed by Minister of State Ossian Smyth in July 2022. The board of directors is heavily populated by representatives from the beverage industry, raising questions about potential conflicts of interest. Critics argue that the company’s governance structure resembles a stakeholders’ group more than an independent board of directors.

Re-turn’s spokesman stated, “We will not be disclosing individual salaries at this time.” This stance has drawn criticism, particularly from Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore, who emphasized the importance of good governance and transparency for entities handling substantial public funds. “When you have good governance on a board, it would dictate that the people are independent of the entity as such, that there isn’t any conflict or perceived conflict of interests,” Whitmore remarked.

The company benefits financially from the deposit return scheme in several ways. It retains deposits on containers that are not reclaimed, often due to reverse vending machines rejecting bottles and cans. Additionally, Re-turn profits from selling the collected aluminium and plastic, though it has declined to reveal the proceeds from these sales, citing commercial sensitivity.

Concerns over the operation of the deposit return scheme are not limited to financial transparency. Consumers have reported issues with reverse vending machines frequently rejecting bottles and cans, leading to unclaimed deposits that bolster Re-turn’s revenues. A spokesman for Re-turn countered these complaints, asserting that the company does not want unredeemed deposits and strongly encourages consumers to return their containers to reclaim their deposits. “Unredeemed deposits will be reinvested into the scheme and used to fund recycling initiatives to help Ireland achieve future recycling targets,” he said.

Despite these assurances, the company’s governance and operational practices continue to be a point of contention. Critics highlight the presence of beverage industry executives on Re-turn’s board as a potential conflict of interest. The board includes notable figures such as CEO Ciaran Foley, a former managing director of DHL Ireland, and representatives from major companies like Heineken Ireland, Tesco Ireland, and Britvic Ireland.

Moreover, there is concern that the legal requirement for retailers to sell only bottles and cans with special Re-turn logos and barcodes disproportionately benefits Irish beverage producers. This regulation complicates the importation of drinks from EU competitors, potentially skewing the market in favor of domestic producers.

In summary, the Re-turn deposit return scheme is under fire for its lack of transparency and governance issues. While the initiative aims to promote recycling and sustainability, its execution and the opaque financial practices surrounding it have led to significant public and political concern. As the debate continues, the need for transparency and accountability remains paramount to ensure public trust in such environmentally critical programs.

Re-Turn Under Fire

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