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Tackling a throwaway culture

Figures obtained by Greenpeace and CPRE, the countryside charity, show that over 8 billion drinks containers were wasted across the UK in 2019.

Made from glass, PET plastic, metal cans and board, they are all materials expected to be covered by the deposit return scheme proposed by the UK and Welsh governments and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

‘Litter left in our countryside, streets, parks and rivers isn’t just an eyesore – it can be extremely harmful to wildlife and nature, and it costs taxpayers millions of pounds in clean-up costs every year.

‘This huge statistic of over 8 billion wasted containers is awful, but it’s also not surprising given government action to tackle our throwaway culture is so long overdue.  
‘CPRE has long been calling for an ‘all-in’ deposit return scheme, which would be a simple and effective way of drastically reducing litter. The small deposit acts as a financial incentive to make sure rubbish ends up where it belongs, and valuable materials are properly recycled. The government must prioritise action on this by implementing an ‘all-in’ deposit system as soon as possible and by no later than 2023.’

Director of campaigns and Policy at CPRE, the countryside charity

A ‘staggering scale’

‘Wasted’ containers are those landfilled, incinerated, or lost into the UK’s terrestrial and marine environments, representing significant costs that are deliberately avoided by drinks producers and placed onto our environment and local councils instead.   
40% of this wastage is of PET bottles, just under 33% is cans and 18% is glass. Per capita in the UK, an estimated 126 empty containers are wasted per year.
For comparison, Germany, which has an efficient deposit return scheme which includes both single-use and refillable containers, sees an annual per capita wastage figure of just over 21 units. 

This figure is part of analysis completed by Reloop, an international non-profit organisation that brings together industry, government and NGOs to bring about positive change at all levels of resource and waste policy.

‘The staggering scale of wasted drinks cans and bottles in the UK should provide clarity for UK governments as they prepare to consult for a final time on the confirmed deposit return system. They must keep focused on their shared ambition to eliminate wastage by introducing legislation and regulation that allows for the best possible design, one that prioritises convenience for consumers and sets an effective deposit level. Whilst some sectors continue to call for delays to this crucial policy, our analysis shows that there’s no longer any time to waste.’

Executive director of Reloop


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