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Deposit return scheme announced

Campaigners celebrate as the government announces the introduction of a deposit return scheme
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Deposit return announcement

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has ‘wholeheartedly’ congratulated the government on its decision to introduce a nationwide deposit return system (DRS) for plastic and glass bottles, as well as aluminium cans.

The introduction will help boost recycling rates and combat the plague of litter blighting our countryside. The CPRE said this ‘is a watershed moment’ for recycling in the UK, given that similar systems around the world produce extremely high results.

The announcement comes days after a report by WWF revealed UK consumers are the second biggest users per person of single-use drinks cups, straws, food containers, crisp packets and wet wipes.

The report warned that, without ‘urgent new action’, the amount of plastic waste produced by the UK will rise from 5.2 million tonnes this year to 6.3 million in 2030 – an increase of 20% in just 12 years.

Polluter pays

The long-awaited decision came following a call for evidence in October last year which investigated how the littering of plastic, metal and glass drinks containers could be reduced, and recycling increased.

The evidence submitted was examined by retail giants such as Coca-Cola and Tesco, alongside other members of the Voluntary and Economic Incentives Working Group, for which CPRE provided the secretariat.

CPRE has campaigned for the introduction of a DRS for 10 years. There has been increasing pressure from environmental organisations, the media and the public for more action to be taken against the tide of waste that is polluting our natural environments, with single-use drinks containers being a huge contributor.

A leap forward

Emma Bridgewater, president of the CPRE, said this ‘landmark announcement’ is the breakthrough CPRE has been waiting for, following a campaign that has spanned almost 10 years.

She said that the ‘significant victory is an enormous leap forward in the war against waste’, and that our countryside, oceans and wildlife have for too long been the victim of our obsession with single-use drinks containers.

Of the billions of single-use bottles and cans produced in the UK year after year, many end up damaging our natural environments and killing our wildlife in a shocking waste of valuable materials. Introducing a DRS means that most of these bottles and cans will be captured and recycled.

‘I wholeheartedly congratulate Michael Gove for his wisdom in finally accepting the case for a deposit return system in the UK – I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. 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. My most profound gratitude goes to the tireless campaigners and heroic litter pickers of CPRE who, for the past decade, have kept the issue alive in the minds of our politicians, press and public.’

Author and former president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England

What is a DRS?

Deposit systems are already successfully operating in 38 countries around the world, producing average recycle rates for collected materials of 90% – reaching as high as 95% in Norway.

The concept is simple: consumers will pay a small deposit on top of the cost of any drink that they buy. This is then returned to the customer when the container is returned to a retailer.

Economic incentives such as these are proven to be the best driver of behaviour change when it comes to boosting recycling and reducing waste. The consumption of plastic bags has gone down by more than 80% in England since the 5p charge was introduced.

‘This is a brilliant and significant decision by Michael Gove. I am thrilled that we will finally see the many benefits a deposit system will bring to England, not least the absence of ugly drinks containers in our beautiful countryside.

‘What’s significant is that producers will now pay the full costs of their packaging, reducing the burden on the taxpayer and setting a strong precedent for other schemes where the polluter pays. This really is a bold and exciting step by the Government.’

Litter programme director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England

Click here to read more about the case for a DRS.

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