Bottle deposit scheme could cut marine plastic pollution by a third

The amount of plastic litter entering oceans from the UK could be reduced by a third if the government were to introduce a deposit return scheme for beverage containers.

That is according to new analysis by the Green Alliance, which says that 33% of plastic litter comes from bottles, and that the problem is likely to escalate as production jumps 20% by 2021.

The think tank argues that placing a charge on container packaging at the point of sale, which can later be redeemed on return, would virtually eliminate beverage litter.

Green Alliance acting policy director, Dustin Benton, said: “The government should listen, introduce a bottle deposit scheme, and enforce rules on sources of industrial waste.

"It’s depressing to visit a beach that is covered with plastic, and downright scary to learn that the seafood you are eating might be contaminated by plastic pollution.”

Such schemes are already widespread in Europe, according to the analysis, particularly in countries like Germany where nearly 100% of plastic bottles are returned for recycling through a long established system.

In contrast, the UK collects around 57% of bottles that go on the market, although political interest in schemes to clean up the remaining plastic is growing, with plans most advanced in Scotland.

The government has already introduced a plastic bag charge, and promised to ban microbeads from rinse-off products later this year, but both of these measures only address 1% of the pollution problem each.

In conjunction with these initiatives, the Green Alliance has identified four more actions that could reduce marine plastic by another third, and include mandatory measures to prevent nurdle leakage into the environment.

It also suggests upgrades to wastewater treatment plants by introducing sand filtration systems to catch small plastic particles, extending the ban on microbeads to all products, and enforcing maritime waste dumping bans.

“The popularity of the microbeads ban and plastic bag charge shows the public is up for tackling these problems. These simple steps would address two-thirds of the UK’s marine plastic problem,” Benton concluded.


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