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Audit Committee calls for deposit return scheme

By 22/12/2017News

The Environmental Audit Committee has called for the introduction of a UK-wide deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and a requirement to provide free drinking water in public premises in order to clamp down on plastic bottle wastage.

The call comes in a report released today (22 December) by the committee which is chaired by the shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh.

‘Plastic Bottles – Turning Back the Plastic Tide’ called on the Government to introduce a regulation for all premises which serve food or drink to provide free drinking water upon request, including sports and leisure centres.

Mrs Creagh, said: “Urgent action is needed to protect our environment from the devastating effects of marine plastic pollution which, if it continues to rise at current rates, will outweigh fish by 2050.

“Our throwaway society uses 13 billion plastic bottles each year, around half of which are not recycled. Plastic bottles make up a third of all plastic pollution in the sea, and are a growing litter problem on UK beaches.  We need action at individual, council, regional and national levels to turn back the plastic tide.”

The government has been urged to introduce a deposit return scheme.

The committee further called for a timescale for publishing a more accurate assessment of the current levels, properties and impacts of marine litter and the steps it will take to protect oceans from plastic pollution.

The inquiry, which is one of two released by the Environmental Audit Committee, was initially launched in the 2015 government but was dissolved during the snap election and continued in September 2017.


It pointed to a survey by YouGov which showed that 73% of respondents to a survey were in favour of introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in the UK.  A petition on the issue generated more than 230,000 signatures.

The committee recommended that the Government introduces a legislated Deposit Return Scheme for all PET plastic drinks bottles.

“It should be created after a consultation with stakeholders such as manufacturers, retailers and local authorities,” the proposal explained.

It added: “Consultation should build upon the working group already in place and examine the innovations suggested to improve the functioning of a Deposit Return Scheme, such as local authority collaboration and retailer partnerships.”

Deposit Return Schemes are currently in operation in around 40 countries worldwide as well as 21 US States.

Typically, countries with Deposit Return schemes for plastic bottles achieve recycling rates of approximately 80 – 95%.

Eunomia Research & Consulting and Coca-Cola European Partners have estimated that a similarly strong recycling rate could be expected if a Deposit Return Scheme was introduced in the UK, the report observed.

Drinking water

The committee also made observations about the availability of free drinking water.

The committee called for more restaurants and gyms to provide free drinking water.

“The Government should review the health and litter-reducing benefits of providing public water fountains and amend the Water Industry Act 1991 to give water companies formal powers to erect water fountains,” the report states.

In England, Wales and Scotland, licensed premises are legally obliged to provide free drinking water to customers on request.

However they are allowed to charge for service or the use of a glass if they wish. The regulation to provide drinking water in licensed premises was introduced to encourage people to drink water while consuming alcoholic beverages.

“We have heard that providing more free drinking water taps and fountains in public spaces could lead to a 65% reduction in the use of plastic water bottles, but there is no obligation for unlicensed premises to provide free drinking water,” the committee report stated.

Suez response

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Suez UK, said he welcomed the EAC proposals, explaining that “the current producer responsibility systems are ineffective at reducing the burden of packaging waste on society”.

He said: “We support the idea of incentivising manufacturers who use more recyclable material, while penalising those who don’t. At the moment, the opposite is almost true. Market forces would quickly see consumers switch to more sustainable products as a result.

“Deposit return schemes have the potential to revolutionise recycling on the go by making it easier, and more attractive, for consumers to recycle plastic bottles outside of their homes. Deposit return schemes that are backed by manufacturers will ensure that their bottles are returned directly to them, to be made into new bottles, rather than being littered in our hedgerows and rivers.”


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Source: Plastic