The UK needs a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles

We're calling on the Government to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for plastic drinks bottles.

The UK landfills, litters or incinerates 5.5 billion plastic bottles every year. 

We've been looking at what action the Government should take to cut down plastic bottle waste. 

We heard from environmental researchers, academics, NGOs, soft drinks companies and retails, local authorities and Government Ministers and officials.

Every year the UK uses 13 billion plastic bottles, but recycles only 7.5 billion

Image Credit: Arshad Pooloo on Unsplash

Plastic bottles are recycled through council bin collections, but the recycling rate hasn't improved for the last five years.

Littering of plastic bottles blights our beaches, rivers and seas.

If marine plastic pollution continues to rise at its current rate, the amount of plastic in the sea will outweigh fish by 2050

Image credit: Photo by wembley on Unsplash

The UN Oceans Chief Lisa Svensson recently described this as a "planetary crisis".

Around 700,000 plastic bottles are littered every day in the UK

Plastic Mountain by Brain Toad (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Fewer than half of local councils provide on-street recycling bins.

This means that plastic bottles used out and about are often not recycled.

And with the household recycling rate flat-lining, the UK needs a system to capture all plastic bottles. 

We heard that providing a financial incentive to return your bottle could change public behaviour, resulting in less littering and more recycling

The 5p's by Gravity_grave (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) 

One way to provide a financial incentive to return bottles is through a Deposit Return Scheme. 

Deposit Return Schemes place a 10-20p charge on top of the price of a bottled drink, which is refunded to the consumer when they return their empty plastic bottle to a shop to be recycled.

Through this scheme
the UK could recycle 
80-90% of plastic drinks bottles

Image Credit: Pixabay

We also heard that plastic bottle manufacturers continue to use mixed polymer plastics, such as sleeve wrappings and coloured plastics.

These contaminate the recycling stream and reduce the value of the recycled material.

We recommend the Government introduce a mandated minimum use of 50% recycled plastic in new plastic bottles by 2023 at the latest

Plastic Bottles by Matthias Pitscher 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) 

The Government should also focus on reducing waste from plastic water bottles.

We spoke to representatives from NGOs about the current state of plastic bottle waste and the potential solutions.

Watch the full discussion here. 

The average person will use 150 plastic water bottles every year

Image Credit: Plastics by IamNotUnqiue (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The UK has safe, clean tap water.

However, water isn't widely available in public spaces.

Only 11% of UK parks have public water fountains, despite the majority of people wanting greater availability of free water in public spaces.

This results in more people using plastic bottles.

65% of people would be more likely to use a reusable water bottle if tap water refills were freely available in public places.

We are calling for greater provision of free drinking water in public spaces, including unlicensed restaurants, cafes and gyms

We delivered these recommendations to the Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Friday 22nd December 2017.

They have two months to respond.

Read our full report on Plastic Bottles: Turning Back the Plastic Tide (HC339) and find out more about our inquiry on our website.

You can read all of the evidence we received on how to reduce littering of plastic bottles and encourage recycling on our website.