Iceland and Co-op become first supermarkets to back plastic bottle deposit scheme

Two of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains have backed the introduction of a bottle deposit return system (DRS) to tackle the growing threat of ocean plastic pollution.

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Iceland and the Co-op made the announcements today after Greenpeace carried out a nation-wide survey of supermarkets exploring the industry’s attitude towards such a system.

Although none of the retailers were opposed to the introduction of a bottle deposit scheme, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S, LIDL, ALDI and Morrisons were either non-committal or expressed reservations.

“Introducing a DRS may well add to our costs of doing business,” Iceland Foods director of sustainability, Richard Walker, said.

“However, we believe it is a small price to pay for the long-term sustainability of this planet. I urge all other retailers to do the right thing and follow suit.”

Approximately eight million metric tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year, the majority of which does not biodegrade, according to a study by US academics earlier this year.

This is thought to have a seriously detrimental impact on marine life, with scientists finding more than 30 plastic bags inside a beaked whale off the coast of Norway in one example recorded this year.

However, analysis by the Green Alliance estimates that the amount of plastic litter entering the ocean from the UK could be reduced by a third if the government were to introduce a DRS.

It shows that such schemes are already widespread in Europe, 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 Scotland already deciding to introduce a DRS.

“It is possible to prevent throwaway plastic polluting our rivers and oceans, but to achieve this we really need companies to step up to the plate,” Greenpeace campaigner, Louise Edge, said.

“That’s why it’s brilliant to see Iceland and the Co-op coming out in favour of deposit return schemes – one of the tried and tested solutions needed to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis."
 

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