A leaked report suggests the UK’s long-awaited plastic bottle deposit return scheme could be announced in just days. 

It could be a massive step in the fight against waste in Britain — where we get through 13 billion plastic bottles every year, with 7.5 billion ending up in landfill, being incinerated, or in the oceans. 

Environment Secretary Michael Gove had previously asked for research to be carried out into how effective the scheme would be. And, according to the Daily Mail, the leaked report shows an unveiling could be imminent. 

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A Nordic-style deposit return scheme would involve customers being charged a small amount extra when they buy their drinks, which would then be paid back when they return them for recycling. 

A new network of “reverse vending machines” would be placed in shops where customers could return their bottles and cans — with an estimated set-up cost of £15 million.

Recycling experts Eunomia previously said that a deposit of 15p would be enough to ensure 85% of containers were returned.

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It’s reported that Tesco, Iceland, and the Co-op would be the first to receive the machines — which would be able to recycle plastic bottles, aluminium cans, and glass bottles. 

The report said that launching the scheme could reduce litter from bottles and cans by at least 70%. It has also predicted that launching a deposit return scheme in the UK would create between 3,000 and 4,300 full-time jobs.

In countries with deposit return schemes already in place, recycling rates are higher than 90%. At the end of last year, environment minister Therese Coffey visited Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to see how their systems work, according to an online post from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The system is also used widely across the US.

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A DEFRA spokesperson said, in response to the Daily Mail article, that an independent working group had submitted its report to ministers, who would consider the evidence around deposit return schemes. 

“We’ll announce a decision on next steps in due course,” they added. 

The news comes a week after a major new report published by the UK government warned that the amount of plastic in the ocean could triple in a decade, unless we make drastic changes. 

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The Environmental Audit Committee, an influential committee of MPs, said in December last year that a deposit return scheme would be “vital” in reducing plastic waste — and would cut the number of plastic bottles being thrown away by 700,000 every day. 

Meanwhile, London mayor Sadiq Khan also revealed this week the locations of the first four drinking fountains to be opened in the capital — in an effort to curb the amount of single-use plastic used by Londoners. 

The first fountain was installed in Carnaby Street, while the next two will be set up in Liverpool Street station and another in Flat Iron Square in Southwark, reported the Guardian

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Defend the Planet

Report: UK Plastic Bottle Deposit Scheme to be Announced in Days

By Imogen Calderwood