Plastic bottle deposit return scheme to launch in England

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Plastic bottle deposit return scheme to launch in England


After a decade of campaigning, the government has given the go ahead for a Deposit Return Scheme on plastic bottles, metal cans and glass, which could see recycling boosted to almost 100%.

Georgina Wilson-Powell

Wed 28 Mar 2018

The government has committed to introducing a Deposit Return Scheme for plastic and glass bottles as well as cans in England to help combat the enormous problem of single use plastic waste in the UK. 

The Deposit Return Scheme will comprise of vending machines, where you can return your drinks containers and receive a small sum for each one recycled. How much and where the machines will be is now under consultation.

Similar schemes in 38 countries, including Finland and Germany, have almost eliminated plastic bottle pollution - it's helped Germany get to a point where 99% of plastic drinks bottles are recycled.

But it's taken a decade for campaigners to get this far.

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage says: “Surfers Against Sewage is thrilled with the government announcement committing the country to a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles, drinks containers and cans. This huge victory for our oceans will stop millions of plastic bottles escaping into the environment annually, and stem the tidal wave of plastics swamping our coastlines. 

It’s a testament to the power of the grassroots campaigners who united to call on the government to stop throwaway plastics at source. We’d like to thank all the signatories of our petition, volunteers and ocean advocates for creating the change our oceans need. This is another big step towards Plastic Free Coastlines.”

Tanya Steele, WWF’s chief executive, said: “Plastic waste in the UK will rise by a fifth by 2030. We need to be tackling the problem on all fronts by reducing, reusing and recycling. That means introducing a standard approach to recycling and, ultimately, ending the use of avoidable single-use plastic by 2025.”

Man standing with surf board on plastic strewn beach

Surfers Against Sewage have been especially active on the plastic waste issue, highlighting how it has affected British beaches

Image Surfers Against Sewage

The legislation has come about partly in response to the huge tidal wave of consumer demand that something is done to change our reliance on single use plastic.

329,000 people signed a petition to bring back bottle deposits and evidence from 50,000 grassroots beach clean volunteers helped to push through this exciting new development on the war on plastic waste.

Scotland announced a Deposit Return Scheme in September last year, after it found 78% of people in favour (Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland) and reckons it will save between £3m and £6m on litter clearance.

What is the size of the plastic bottle problem?

Want to know what we're up against and why this legislation is so important? 

Every single day in the UK we use a staggering 38.5 million plastic bottles. Only half of these go into recycling systems. The rest are burnt or sent to landfill - where each one takes 450 years to degrade into microplastics, which then enter our food and water systems.

Our beaches are covered with an estimated 255 million each year (according to Surfers Against Sewage).

For a more positive note, see our 7 brands using plastic bottles to make clothes.