Climate Action

Deposit return scheme proposed in England to fight plastic waste

The UK Government has put forward plans to introduce a deposit return scheme to dramatically reduce the amount of waste from drinks.

  • 28 March 2018
  • Adam Wentworth

The UK Government has put forward plans to introduce a deposit return scheme to dramatically reduce the amount of waste from drinks.

Single use containers, either plastic, glass, or metal, could soon be subject to a small charge which consumers will get back if they return the item. Businesses involved are then responsible for the bottle

Similar schemes in other European countries have seen an increase in recycling rates; in Germany, it has helped recycling rates climb to an astonishing 97 percent.

The process could be as simple as placing the plastic or glass bottle into a vending machine, which will then return the original money spent. The proposal is subject to a public consultation on how the scheme might work and is currently confined to England, but could be rolled-out to the entire country.

The government estimates that UK consumers use 13 billion plastic drinks bottles each year, of which three billion aren’t recycled. This waste is either incinerated, sent to landfill, or finds its way into fields, rivers, and oceans.

A deposit scheme is one of the ways the government is seeking to combat the scourge, and forms part of its new 25 year environment plan, which includes a pledge to eradicate plastic waste by 2042. It has also banned microbeads and introduced a 5p charge on plastic bags.

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. It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled”

“We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans”, he added.

Author and environmental campaigner Bill Bryson said that future generations would deem the idea “a piece of supremely enlightened policymaking” and raises the chances of “the world’s most beautiful country becoming free from drinks container litter at last”.

Samantha Harding, at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the news was “a huge win for the countryside as well as our oceans”.

“Michael Gove should be congratulated for taking this landmark decision. With a mandatory return system for all bottles and cans, we'll soon have a world leading system that will banish garish littered drinks containers to history.”


Photo Credit: Arshad Pooloo