A comprehensive deposit return scheme is vital

17th October 2019

Only an all-in deposit return scheme will clean up our countryside.

More than one in four bottles that litter our countryside may not be included in the deposit return scheme if the government buckles under pressure from industry.

Responding to the publication of the Environment Bill, which will allow for the creation of a deposit return scheme (DRS), we urged the government to continue with its ambition for all drinks containers – no matter the size or material – to be included in the system and not fold under industry lobbying. The Bill allows for the creation of a DRS but does not specify what will be included or when it will be introduced.

Evidence for an all-in scheme continued to build with our Green Clean event, a nationwide litter pick carried out each year. 10,000 drinks containers were collected during the month-long litter pick, including cans, plastic bottles of all sizes and glass bottles. The 2019 results suggested that millions of drinks containers would still end up littering our countryside if the drinks industry secures a limited DRS to serve their interests.

The Green Clean, which took place right across England, found that:

  • A quarter (23%) of glass bottles collected were over the 750ml size limit, the current upper limit for the model for DRS being pushed by key industries
  • More than one quarter (28%) of plastic bottles found littering the countryside were larger than the common 500ml bottle size and could be excluded from the scheme being pushed by key industry stakeholders

Additionally, more than 1 in 10 drinks containers collected were glass – and this figure doesn’t include the shattered pieces of glass that volunteers were unable to count. These would all be left to harm people, and wildlife if glass is excluded from a future DRS.

Tom Fyans, our deputy chief executive, said: ‘It’s great to see the government include powers to introduce a deposit return scheme in the Environment Bill but as the results of our nationwide litter-pick demonstrate, in order to be an effective deterrent to the high volumes of waste polluting our natural environment, it must cover all materials of all sizes.

‘To boost recycling rates for all drinks containers – cans, glass and plastic bottles, cartons and pouches – the only option is for the government to introduce an all-in system. The industries that would be required to pay for the deposit return scheme continue to try to limit its scope but we urge the government to prioritise the needs of the environment and society over corporate vested interests.

‘As the Secretary of State for the Environment announced the publication of the Environment Bill, it was encouraging to hear her recognise the benefits of the DRS in England being the same as the DRS being introduced in Scotland, which will be all-in. This provides further hope that the government is listening as we make the case for an ambitious approach to tackling the problem of litter. But there’s no time to waste, so we hope the DRS element of the Bill will be a priority as the government takes forward this vital piece of legislation.’

Plastic bottle washed up at sea
Our oceans are full of littered plastic. CPRE says: enough. Brian Yurasits / Unsplash