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Urgent recommendation from the Environmental Audit Committee for a deposit return scheme

22 December 2017

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is delighted by the recommendation from the Environmental Audit Committee that the UK Government should introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles, to help increase recycling and curb the devastation caused by plastic waste.

The recommendation comes from the Committee’s new report, ‘Plastic Bottles: Turning Back the Plastic Tide’, following a comprehensive inquiry into drinks container packaging.

CPRE, which submitted both written and oral evidence to the Committee during the consultation period, recognises the depth and scope of this inquiry. For more than a decade, CPRE has supported the introduction of a DRS for aluminium cans, glass and plastic bottles as a solution to litter and boosting recycling rates. The potential for DRS to change people’s behaviour for the better, through the use of a small financial incentive, has already been proven in many countries, including Norway, Canada and Australia.

As people increasingly drink more soft drinks and water on-the-go, the UK urgently needs a system to capture these bottles before they are littered or end up in landfill. The committee is calling on the UK Government to introduce a DRS for plastic drinks bottles with the aim of boosting the recycling rate to 90%.

Samantha Harding, Litter Programme Director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

“This is a significant and unequivocal recommendation by the cross-party EAC – that the analysis of the evidence it has received has shown England needs a DRS to save us from the plastic choking our countryside and coasts. Its commitment to a well-designed system is also very welcome, recommending we draw on the strongest examples from around the world to give England the very best DRS. With billions of drinks containers put on the market every year, we should be doing all that we can to capture those valuable materials.”

Another critical recommendation from the Committee is that packaging producers should be made financially responsible for the plastic packaging they produce. Currently, packaging producers only pay for 10% of the cost of packaging disposal and recycling, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for the remaining 90%. The Environmental Audit Committee urges the Government to adopt a fee structure that rewards producers who design recyclable packaging and increase charges on packaging that is difficult to recycle.

Further recommendations from the Committee include a requirement for all public premises that serve food and drink to provide free drinking water, as well as to increase the number of public water fountains to reduce the number of plastic bottles consumed. It will be crucial to ensure that this initiative focuses on providing water to refill existing containers, rather than inadvertently relying on disposable plastic cups.

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