Bottle deposit scheme plans unveiled

The UK government yesterday announced plans for a deposit return scheme for single-use drink containers in a bid to improve Britain’s floundering recycling rates.


The scheme will be subject to a consultation later this year, and will look to emulate similar initiatives in Denmark, Sweden and Germany where recycling rates have risen up to 97%.

UK consumers go through an estimated 13 billion plastic drink bottles a year, of which approximately 57% are recycled, with three billion instead incinerated, sent to landfill, or left polluting the environment.

“It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled,” environment secretary, Michael Gove, said.

“We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment – killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats.”

Deposit return schemes involve consumers paying an upfront deposit when they buy a drink, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, which is redeemed when the container is returned.

Other variants include cash rewards without upfront deposits, and involve ‘reverse vending machines’ with businesses then responsible for recycling the returned bottles.

The UK’s proposed scheme will be for plastic, glass or metal containers, and comes after much media attention on the volume of ocean plastic pollution, which is estimated to now be at over 150 million tonnes.

This follows a ban on plastic microbeads and the introduction of a 5p charge on supermarket carrier bags, with Theresa May recently describing plastic pollution as one of the “great environmental scourges of our time”.

The deposit scheme consultation will take into account views from producers, suppliers and consumers, and is part of wider reforms to the current packaging waste system.

Author, Bill Bryson, said: “Future generations will look back on this decision as a piece of supremely enlightened policymaking, and one that raises the prospect of the world’s most beautiful country becoming free from drinks container litter at last.”


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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